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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that the White House will present awards to the thousands of troops who served during the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. File Photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/USMC | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/41f41799fde4e39103f193dffb5e7cfd/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that the White House will present awards to the thousands of troops who served during the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. File Photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/USMC | License Photo

Aug. 31 (UPI) — Thousands of U.S. troops who helped evacuate Afghans during the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan will receive awards, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday.

President Joe Biden has directed all units involved in the retrograde operation from Afghanistan, Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome will be awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation or their service equivalent, Lloyd said in a statement Wednesday.

Lloyd said he would also direct Military Departments to perform an “expedited review” of all units present ant Hamid Karzai International Airport from Aug. 15 through Aug. 30, 2021, to identify units or individuals eligible for Presidential Unit Citation or individual awards.

“No words can properly honor the deeds we recognize with these awards. What these awards reflect — and what I hope the units who receive them will feel — is the gratitude and love of our nation,” he said.

“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.”

The order includes not only service members who helped secure the airport and process more than 124,000 evacuees in Kabul during the withdrawal, but also 10 military installations in the United States that helped house, feed and provide medical care to 80,000 Afghans.

“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,” Lloyd said.

Biden recognized the 13 service members killed at Kabul Airport on the one-year anniversary of the attack Friday.

They were beloved sons and daughters, brothers and sisters,” Biden said. “The example of their bravery and selflessness will live forever as a testament to the very best of our American character.”



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