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12 Airmen May Get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor Upgrades

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the "Stolen Valor Act"

The Air Force is recommending upgrading the awards of up to a dozen airmen to the Medal of Honor or the Air Force Cross, the service announced Friday.

The upgrades to the service's two highest valor medals stem from review boards that met in May, according to Brooke Brzozowske, a spokeswoman for the Air Force.

"The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade," she said in an email. "Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations."

The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.

Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn't disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor -- the highest military award for combat action.

The service's review was part of the Defense Department's push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.

The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. "We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses," he said at the time.

The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn't ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn't immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.

Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.

In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs "to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members," officials told USA Today at the time.

Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.

Mabus will present the upgraded awards in a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, on Friday.

However, it's unclear if James will coordinate a medals ceremony in the next few days. The secretary, who had her formal farewell ceremony on Wednesday, is expected to leave the Pentagon next week.

RELATED: Airman to Get Silver Star for Leading River Evacuation Under Fire

Most recently -- but separate from the Air Force review -- Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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