U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is applauding the decision that 39 soldiers injured in a January 2020 Iranian ballistic missile attack will be awarded Purple Hearts.
The recommendation by the Department of Defense to award the 39 soldiers, who were stationed at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, comes after recent reporting found that the initial attack had been downplayed in Washington.
Although, miraculously, no fatalities occurred, the soldiers suffered long term effects from the attack, including severe headaches, vision problems and memory loss. Many of the service members who are receiving a Purple Heart, nearly two years after the attack, have been forced to leave the Armed Forces because of their injuries. Recently, one posthumous award recipient, Sergeant Jason Quitugua, died by suicide after his injuries.
“Servicemembers at Al Asad Air Base endured life-altering injuries in service to our country,” Crist said in a statement. “Providing a Purple Heart to these brave men and women is the least we can do for their sacrifice. I am thankful that our nation will recognize their sacrifice in the line of duty.”
Crist also voiced concern about traumatic brain injuries suffered by survivors, including inquiring about the status of those who were injured during a hearing with representatives from our Defense Health Programs. In February 2020, Crist sent a letter to Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressing concern over the well-being of the injured service members and inquiring how the Department of Defense would protect them from suffering brain injuries from similar attacks in the future.
Purple Heart recipients are provided access to additional VA benefits, including higher priority when receiving health care, access to VA home loans, preference in federal hiring and automatic GI Bill benefits.
This week’s awards are in addition to the 23 survivors who have already received Purple Hearts, bringing the total number awarded as a result of the attack to 62.