Thousands of troops surged into Afghanistan in the final days of the U.S. operation there, and even more helped house and process Afghan evacuees in Europe and stateside in the months following the withdrawal a year ago.
For their efforts, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Wednesday that they’ll receive the Meritorious Unit Commendation, or their service equivalent.
All of the units that participated in the non-combatant evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport will also expedite reviews to determine whether the Presidential Unit Citation, “or appropriate individual awards,” are also warranted, Austin added in a statement.
“No words can properly honor the deeds we recognize with these awards,” he wrote. “What these awards reflect ― and what I hope the units who receive them will feel ― is the gratitude and love of our nation.”
Austin’s order includes not only those who helped secure the airport and process evacuees in Kabul, but those from 10 military installations who provided housing, health care, entertainment and more for tens of thousands of evacuees who eventually resettled in the U.S.
“No other military could have protected so many lives under such challenging circumstances in such a short amount of time — not just because of our airlift or our logistics capabilities, but most of all because of the immense compassion, skill, and dedication of American Service members,” Austin wrote.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.