Two Years Later, Presidential Unit Citations Handed Out to Units Involved in the Afghan Pullout

Eric Gay

Two years after what I and countless others view as one of the most disastrous military operations in United States history, the Afghanistan pullout, the Pentagon issued orders to the units and their personnel that were involved authorizing them to wear the Presidential Unit Citation, commonly referred to as the "PUC" by military members. 

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The award is issued to units by order of the president for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy and is the highest award a unit can receive. 

Members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, and Joint Task Force 82 of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division will be recognized with the citation for their efforts during Operation Allies Refuge, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday. 

Besides the Army and Marine Corps units, elements of 20 other units including active-duty and National Guard troops were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, according to an update from the Army Thursday evening.

This move by the Pentagon, at the behest of President Joe Biden, was absolutely correct. But it comes far too late, and quite frankly, it comes at a time when the administration has received blistering criticism from Gold Star families for the president's massive disrespect and lack of interest in their situations. As RedState's Nick Arama wrote:

Amongst all the horror imposed on the families, Biden added more with his actions. Cheryl Rex is the mother of Lance Corporal Dylan Merola, 20. When he was returned home, during the “dignified transfer” ceremony, Rex said that Biden told her, “My wife, Jill & I, know how you feel. We lost our son as well and brought him home in a flag-draped coffin.” Rex said she started shaking because she knew that wasn’t true, and she couldn’t believe what he had just said. What a horrible thing to say to a mother who had just lost her son.

As we had previously reported before this hearing, in addition to talking about his son who had died of cancer, the parents also detailed how Biden kept checking his watch during the ceremony.

During the hearing, Kelly Barnett, the mom of Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover — the oldest killed at just 31 — tearfully said those killed “left this Earth” feeling their command cared nothing for them. The wounded and the survivors felt they were not cared for, and she felt this as well.

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Jon Myers, a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and intelligence officer, was motivated to run for Congress because of the national embarrassment. 

A retired military intelligence officer with 28 years in uniform, both on active and reserve duty, told RedState he decided to run for the GOP nomination in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District—looking to eventually defeat Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) amid President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s retreat from Afghanistan two years ago.

“The actual moment was when Jen Psaki went on TV in August of 2021 and rolled her eyes and said: ‘There are no Americans stranded in Afghanistan,'” said Jon Myers, who at that time was working with his back-channel network to get Americans out of Kabul.

“I had that list of American citizens—128 American citizens and dual-nationality Afghan-Americans. They were in hiding and messaging me: ‘Please get us out,’” Myers said.

“It was that moment—I was like: ‘This is ridiculous that we have people like this running our government, and our representative in the area where I live was just going along,’” the 14th-generation Virginian said.

The units involved in the operation absolutely and without a doubt deserve the award. Units throughout the military use it as bragging rights to other units that haven't received the award. When I was deployed to Okinawa, Japan, my unit was assigned to the 4th Marine Regiment. When my unit was relieved to rotate back home in 2002, we were relieved by another Marine battalion from the East Coast. During our relief ceremony, our battalion's colors were displayed in front, as were theirs. A battalion's colors are comprised of a scarlet flag with gold letters and emblems; attached to the colors are the battle streamers that the unit has been awarded over the unit's history, including the streamer for the Presidential Unit Citation. 

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In my piece regarding my personal thoughts on the pullout, I mentioned Marine Scout Sniper Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews. He, along with several other Marines, Corpsmen, and Soldiers, has publicly testified in front of Congress and given interviews to several people and outlets. The common theme for all of them was the fact that they all personally observed acts of heroism and valor during the bombing and its aftermath. They detailed numerous events where personnel that were under heavy fire administered combat aid to the wounded or dragged injured personnel to safety under fire, and countless other heroic acts. 

For the Marines, their Corpsmen, and the Soldiers on the ground that day, none of them have been recognized for their valor, courage under fire, and more. No Bronze or Silver Stars have been awarded, no meritorious medals with the "V" (designated for valor) device on them, nothing. But the Biden administration, along with the Service Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense, all got their "atta boys" and more. Two years later, all the actual participants get is the Presidential Unit Citation. They will wear it on their uniforms and display it with pride as they absolutely should. But deep down, they will see it as a reminder of the failure of their Commander in Chief and his administration. 

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