Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Steve Daines on Wednesday introduced a bipartisan piece of legislation to honor the 13 US soldiers who died in Kabul, Afghanistan amid the chaotic Biden administration troop withdrawal with posthumous Congressional Gold Medals.
“Thirteen brave men and women gave the last full measure to protect Americans and 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 (R-Mont.) said in a statement. “On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you to these heroes and their families, and to all who wear the uniform and protect our freedom.”
As the US scrambled to remove all Americans, Afghan allies and troops from Afghanistan last month, an ISIS-K member set off a suicide bomb outside the Kabul airport on Aug. 26. The blast killed 13 US soldiers, nearly 200 Afghans, and injured hundreds more.
“These individuals demonstrated incredible courage throughout their careers, and we owe it to them to pass legislation to recognize their heroic service with the Congressional Gold Medal,” Warren (D-Mass.) said, specifically noting fallen US Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo who was from Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Along with Pichardo, Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak and Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss were listed among the dead following the attack. Daines and Warren are asking for all 13 to receive the congressional gold medal, one of the highest civilian honors in the country.
Over 30 bipartisan lawmakers including Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and Jim Risch (R-ID) have joined in co-sponsoring the bill.
Following the bombing, President Biden and his administration were repeatedly slammed for their approach to the Afghanistan withdrawal, with some family members of the fallen soldiers blaming the president and US military for their deaths.
“They sent my son over there as a paper pusher and then had the Taliban outside providing security,” Steve Nikoui, the father of Kareem Nikoui, told The Daily Beast. “I blame my own military leaders … Biden turned his back on him. That’s it.”
The family of McCollum has expressed the most anger toward the president, with his mother, Kathy, calling Biden “a dementia-ridden piece of crap who doesn’t even know he’s in the White House” in a radio interview shortly after the attack. In the same interview, she claimed that Americans who voted for Biden “just killed my son.”
Meanwhile, McCollum’s sister Roice said her brother’s widow, Jiennah, felt the president showed “total disregard to the loss of our Marine — our brother, son, husband, and father” when Biden spoke to her in Dover late last month at an event with families of the fallen soldiers.
Biden came under fire following the event again, when photos emerged of him checking his watch several times during the ceremony.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not deny that Biden was checking the time when she was asked by Fox News correspondent Jacqui Heinrich, “Was the president looking at his watch and does he have a message to those people who felt that they were offended?”
Psaki instead pivoted, saying the president wanted to convey to the families that “he knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a child and the fact that … there’s no words that are going to fill that hole that is left by that.”