13 troops killed in HKIA attack to be awarded Congressional Gold Medals

A bill awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the 13 service members who were killed during the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul was passed by Congress Nov. 18.

The bipartisan bill — introduced in September by Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Steve Danes, R-Mont .— calls for the medals to be posthumously awarded to the fallen service members and then donated to the Smithsonian Institution for display.

According to the official page for Congressional medals, Congress has been commissioning gold medals since the Revolutionary War as “its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions.” Among those who have been awarded the medal are President George Washington, the Wright brothers and the members of Gen. James Doolittle’s “Tokyo Raiders” in World War II.

The 13 service members to be honored are Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Hoover, 31; Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23; Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22; Cpl. Daegan Page, 23; Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22; Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20; Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20; Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20; Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20; Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20; Navy Hospitalman Maxton Soviak, 22; and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23.

ISIS-Khorasan has since claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Thirteen brave men and women gave the last full measure to protect Americans & our Afghan allies at a critical moment in our nation’s history—they are American heroes. As the U.S. concludes 20-years of combat in Afghanistan, I believe it’s fitting that Congress commemorates their sacrifice in this moment with the Congressional Gold Medal,” Daines said in a statement.

The bill was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate, and is now on President Joe Biden’s desk waiting to be signed.

Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master’s candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.

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