Troops Who Served in Afghanistan Withdrawal Will Get Meritorious Unit Commendation

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Troops in units that participated in the withdrawal from Afghanistan are now eligible for the Meritorious Unit Commendation. Units that were at Kabul’s airport during the final withdrawal will be considered for the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest award the military confers to a unit for combat operations. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

On the one-year anniversary of the official end of US troop presence in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced that troops who served with units involved in the multimonth withdrawal from the country would be awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Units that served in Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome will be awarded the commendation or its equivalent. Defense officials referred to the larger, monthslong withdrawal from Afghanistan as a “retrograde operation.”

The Meritorious Unit Commendation is awarded to units for valorous actions or meritorious achievement in either combat- or noncombat-related events.

Additionally, units involved in the final evacuation of Hamid Karzai International Airport will be reviewed for Presidential Unit Citations, the military’s top unit accolade. The Presidential Unit Citation is awarded to units that demonstrate exceptional heroism, usually in action against an armed enemy.

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III briefs the press from the Pentagon Briefing Room on Feb. 19, 2021, in Washington, DC. US Department of Defense photo by US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III briefs the press from the Pentagon Briefing Room Feb. 19, 2021, Washington, DC. Department of Defense photo by US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders.

PUCs have gone to units that parachuted or stormed ashore on D-Day, the Navy SEALs who killed Usama Bin Laden, and Coast Guard units behind that service’s full-throttle response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Since World War II, the nation has recognized the extraordinary heroism of military units in action against an armed enemy with the Presidential Unit Citation,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in his press release.

Unit citations identify outstanding performance and meritorious service, acknowledging the efforts of the organization as a group rather than an individual’s achievement.

“I hope these awards serve as a reminder to each and every Service member who wears them of the lives they helped save and the thanks of the nation and Department of Defense they serve so well,” Austin concluded in his press release.

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A Marine lifts an evacuee on Aug. 26, 2021, at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz.

A Marine lifts an evacuee Aug. 26, 2021, at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan. (USMC photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz)

The announcement comes just after the one-year anniversary of the Afghanistan withdrawal, which included the Abbey Gate bombing that resulted in the deaths of 13 service members on Aug. 26, 2021.

You can read Coffee or Die Magazine‘s coverage of each of the 13 American service members killed in the Aug. 26, 2021, bombing below:

Lance Cpl. David Lee Espinoza, USMC | Laredo, TX
Sgt. Nicole Gee, USMC | Roseville, CA
Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, USMC | Salt Lake City, UT
Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, US Army | Knoxville, TN
Cpl. Hunter Lopez, USMC | Indio, CA
Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, USMC | Bondurant, WY
Cpl. Dylan Merola, USMC | Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, USMC | Norco, CA
Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, USMC | Omaha, NE
Sgt. Johanny Rosario, USMC | Lawrence, MA
Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, USMC | Logansport, IN
Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, USMC | Wentzville, MO
Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, US Navy | Berlin Heights, OH

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Tom Wyatt is an intern at Coffee or Die Magazine. He is an active duty Naval Special Warfare Boat Operator and a proud father living in San Diego, California. Tom is a budding reporter, looking to pursue journalism and fiction writing upon exiting the Navy.
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