Lawmakers seek promotions for troops killed in Afghan airport bombing

by Tommy Grant

Republican lawmakers are pressing Defense Department leaders to posthumously promote all of the U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport terrorist attack in the final days of the American military deployment in Afghanistan.

Thirteen troops were killed in the attack in August 2021, along with hundreds of Afghan civilians. The deaths have become a focal point of Republican criticism of President Joe Biden’s decision to completely withdraw U.S. military forces from the country, and concerns that military leaders may have missed warning signs of a terrorist strike at the airport.

In a letter to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth on Tuesday, the five lawmakers — Mike Waltz of Florida, Mike McCaul of Texas, Cory Mills of Florida, Brian Mast of Florida, and Darrell Issa of California — said the issue of posthumous promotions was brought up during recent meetings with the fallen troops’ family members.

“When our brave service members give the last full measure of devotion in the service of our republic, we have a solemn obligation to care for their survivors with the dignity and respect their service demands,” the group wrote. “We kindly ask for your assistance in upholding this obligation.”

About one month after the attack, Navy officials posthumously promoted Maxton Soviak to Hospital Corpsman Third Class in recognition of his actions and sacrifice. The other 12 service members who died in the bombing were not granted similar honors.

The other troops killed in the attack were:

  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza of Rio Bravo, Texas
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee of Sacramento, California
  • Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover of Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss of Corryton, Tennessee
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, of Indio, California
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum of Jackson, Wyoming
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola of Rancho Cucamonga, California
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui of Norco, California
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo of Lawrence, Massachusetts
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez of Logansport, Indiana
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz of St. Charles, Missouri
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page of Omaha, Nebraska

Although posthumous promotions are largely symbolic measures, the changes in rank can have small impacts on survivors’ benefits.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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