US military awards Purple Hearts to troops wounded in Iranian ballistic-missile attack

John Davison/ReutersUS soldiers inspect the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, January 13, 2020.
  • The US military has awarded six Purple Hearts to US troops injured in Iran’s January 8 ballistic-missile attack on US and coalition forces in Iraq.
  • A total of 110 US troops suffered mild traumatic brain injuries as a result of the attack, but some of the injuries were more severe than others.
  • A total of 29 Purple Hearts are expected to be awarded to service members who were wounded in the attack.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US military has awarded Purple Hearts to US service members who were wounded in an Iranian ballistic-missile attack in January, US Central Command said Monday.

Purple Hearts approved by Lt. Gen. Pat White, Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve commander, have been awarded to six US Army soldiers. A total of 29 Purple Hearts have been approved. The remaining awards will be presented this week.

The military reviewed and evaluated 80 submissions.

Following a US drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, on January 3, Iran retaliated on January 8 with a ballistic-missile strike on US and coalition forces stationed in Iraq.

The hardest hit location was Al Assad Air Base.

For the US service members at the base, it was a terrifying experience. A squadron commander who had to decide who would evacuate and who would stay behind to defend the base wrote recently that she feared everyone that remained would die.

“I honestly thought anyone remaining behind would perish,” she wrote. “I didn’t believe anyone would survive a ballistic missile attack, and it made me feel sick and helpless.”

In the immediate aftermath, there were no apparent injuries or fatalities, and President Donald Trump proudly announced that “no Americans were harmed.”

But there were injuries. They were just harder to detect. In the weeks that followed the attack, numerous US service members were diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries of varying severity. By mid-February, the number of injured US military personnel had climbed to 110.

The president downplayed the reported injuries on more than one occasion.

“I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report that it’s not very serious,”Trump said on January 22. “I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.”

He later doubled down on that statement, saying he would not be changing his mind, even as veterans groups called on him to apologise for his earlier remarks.

The severity of the injuries suffered by US troops in the attack appears to have varied, as some recovered quickly and were able to return to duty while others had to be removed from the theatre of operations and, in some cases, taken back to the US for further treatment.

US Central Command explained in a statement that while more than 29 service members were injured in the Iranian attack, “a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) diagnosis does not automatically qualify a Service Member for Purple Heart eligibility or awarding.”

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