Some of the U.S. soldiers who suffered from traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of Iran’s attacks on the al-Asad base in Iraq are to be given Purple Hearts.
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It is unclear how many service members would receive the Purple Heart for the injuries caused by 11 Iranian ballistic missiles, which struck the Iraqi base in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
In total, after initially reporting that there were no damages and injuries as a result of the January 8th Iranian ballistic missile strike, it turned out that there were quite a bit of damage, and 110 troops were diagnosed with TBI.
“The Purple Heart submissions remain under review by [Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve] and are being processed in accordance with Defense Department and military services regulations,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell. “Upon final approval, service members entitled to receive the Purple Heart will be notified by their leadership.”
To qualify for the Purple Heart, troops must be diagnosed and treated by medical professionals for TBI as a result of an enemy attack and be removed from duty for 48 hours, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in January.
“A lot of people have said, well, why didn’t we immediately identify everybody with a traumatic brain injury?” Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs said. “Because the signs sometimes are fairly non-specific.
“And if you’re 18 or 19 or 20 years old, even though we’ve trained everybody who deploys downrange on what to look for, it’s quite common that we’ll have folks who will say, you know, ‘I just was blasted; of course I’m not going to feel quite right, I’m going to ride this out for a few days;’ or, ‘I’m going to wait and see if this gets better.’” he continued. “And then they come in, several days or weeks after the fact.”
In 2011, the Pentagon streamlined its policy regarding criteria for the Purple Heart to allow service members with mild TBI to be eligible for the award even if they did not lose consciousness in the attack or were not immediately treated on scene by a medical officer.
“Combat theater and unit command policies mandating rest periods or “down time” following incidents do not constitute qualifying treatment for concussion injuries. To qualify as medical treatment, this rest period must have been directed by a medical officer or medical professional for the individual after diagnosis of an injury as indicated,” the Army’s Purple Heart policy states.
“When considering award of the Purple Heart for a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion that did not result in the loss of consciousness, ensure the diagnosed mild traumatic brain injury resulted in a disposition of ‘not fit for full duty’ by a medical officer for a period of greater than 48 hours based on persistent signs, symptoms, or findings of functional impairment resulting from the concussive event,” the Air Force awards manual detailed.
“Sailors and Marines may be awarded the Purple Heart for certain mild traumatic brain injuries that were caused by enemy action” Jim Nierle, president, Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals, said in a 2011 news release.
“If they suffered a loss of consciousness, or had to be given the disposition of ‘not fit for full duty’ by a medical officer for a period greater than 48 hours after a concussive event, they may qualify for the Purple Heart,” Nierle explained in the release.
Back in February, Military Times reported that as many as 60 soldiers could be eligible for a Purple Heart.
It is unclear how many would receive the Purple Heart; but this would potentially surpass the 47 Purple Hearts awarded to Marines from 2016 to 2018 supporting Operation Inherent Resolve — the U.S.-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Prior to streamlining the awarding procedure, Purple Hearts were awarded to soldiers who were severely injured or killed in combat, now it is being awarded to soldiers who received a concussion while sitting in a bunker, in an attack that, as far as it is known, took no human life.
Furthermore, streamlining the awarding of Purple Hearts for TBI raises some question, as it could easily be used as a sort of cover-up strategy to award the medal to soldiers, under the pretext of them suffering simply minor injuries, rather than something more serious, which would remain undisclosed. That, however, comes down entirely to speculation.
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