Biden signs McClain bill awarding medal to 13 killed in Kabul

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — President Joe Biden signed a bill Thursday to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 13 American service members killed in the August suicide bomb attack in Kabul. 

The measure is the first legislation by Republican freshman Rep. Lisa McClain of Bruce Township to be signed into law. 

“I’m glad these fallen service members will finally receive the recognition they deserve for their bravery and sacrifice for our country,” McClain said in a statement. “Thank you to the 326 House members and 68 Senators who cosponsored this legislation and helped it quickly become law.”

A Marine Corps carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Marine Corps Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind., Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. President Joe Biden embarked on a solemn journey Sunday to honor and mourn the 13 U.S. troops killed in the suicide attack near the Kabul airport as their remains return to U.S. soil from Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In total, the attack by the Islamic State affiliate ISIS-K at the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport killed as many as 200 people and wounded hundreds of others, including 14 American troops. 

More than 5,000 U.S. troops were deployed to help with the evacuation of more than 100,000 people after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August amid the U.S. military's withdraw. 

The day before the attack, the U.S. State Department had warned of a “credible” threat at the Kabul airport, urging people to leave the area. Those gathered at the gates were hoping to make one of the last evacuation flights out of the country. 

"The American service members went above and beyond the call of duty to protect citizens of the United States and our allies to ensure they are brought to safety in an extremely dangerous situation as the Taliban regained control over Afghanistan," the bill says. 

"The American service members exemplified extreme bravery and valor against armed enemy combatants. The American service members dedicated their lives and their heroism deserves great honor."

McClain's measure also names each of the 13 dead, which included 11 Marines, one soldier and one sailor: 

Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California

Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas

Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming

Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri

Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California 

Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah

Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska

Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, California

Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, Logansport, Indiana

Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California

Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, Lawrence, Massachusetts

Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee

They were the first U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan since February 2020.

McClain has said she met with some of the fallen service members’ parents and families.

Biden announced his decision in April to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and end the "forever war" that was launched after the Sept. 11 terror attacks by al-Qaida in 2001.

Biden said he wanted to see no more U.S. troops sacrifice themselves for a war that he no longer believed to be in the best interest of the United States or its allies.

Under McClain's bill, the gold medal would be given to the Smithsonian Institution for display, with the intent that it would be displayed outside of Washington at times in locations associated with the 13 service members killed Aug. 26, according to the text.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Steve Daines, R-Montana introduced the Senate companion to the bill.