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Dept. of Defense announces new awards for those who served in Afghanistan

Unit commendations will be given to those who participated in the massive evacuation operation, said to be largest in U.S. history.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is planning to bestow new awards on the units involved in the final days of the war in Afghanistan, which ended one year ago this week.

The Defense Department announced Wednesday that it will present "Meritorious Unit Commendations" to all units that participated in "Operation Allies Refuge" and "Operation Allies Welcome."

Those efforts allowed 124,000 Afghan refugees to leave the country, which the Pentagon described as "one of the largest, most difficult and most dangerous humanitarian operations in U.S. military history."

In a release, Sec. Lloyd Austin said: "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. 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 DOD will also conduct a review to determine which individuals and units should receive the "Presidential Unit Citation" for their actions at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

"Form the Secretary's standpoint, really the key message here is that it's meant to express the gratitude of the Department and the nation for what it is that our men and women serving in Afghanistan during this very challenging time, what they accomplished," said Department of Defense Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder.

Ryder said Austin traveled to Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday to honor the more than 2,400 troops who died in the nearly two-decade long war, including the 13 personnel who were killed by suicide bombers at the Kabul airport.

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