U.S. Central Command said 29 Purple Hearts have been approved for soldiers injured in the Jan. 8 Iran ballistic missile attack that struck two Iraqi bases housing coalition troops.
Cmdr. Zachary Harrell, a CENTCOM spokesman, told Military Times in an emailed statement that the first six Purple Hearts were awarded to U.S. Army soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq on May 2 and May 3 respectively, for injuries sustained in the ballistic missile strike targeting al-Asad Air Base in Iraq.
The awards were approved by Lt. Gen. Pat White, commander of Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve, Harrell said.
In all, 80 Purple Heart packages were evaluated “individually” by a CJTF-OIR review board in accordance with Army and Air Force regulations, Harrell explained.
“The review board submitted their recommendations to White for final decision and determination for U.S. Army soldier Purple Hearts,” Harrell said.
Harrell explained two packages for airmen were sent to White who “passed his recommendation against approval” to Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command Command.
Guastella has final approval over Purple Hearts for airmen.
On Jan. 8, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles targeting two Iraqi air bases in Erbil and al-Asad as retaliation for a decapitation strike carried out by the U.S. that killed Iranian Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani.
More than 100 U.S. service members have been evaluated for traumatic brain injury following the attack.
“It is important to note that a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) diagnosis does not automatically qualify a Service Member for Purple Heart eligibility or awarding, and the CJTF-OIR process was designed to be a fair and impartial proceeding that evaluated each case in accordance with applicable regulations,” Harrell said.
“Ultimately, 29 Purple Hearts have been approved for injuries sustained by U.S. Army soldiers, and the rest of the awards are expected to be presented this week," Harrell explained.
CNN first reported that 29 Purple Hearts have been approved for troops injured in the Iran ballistic missile attack.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.