Eight Airmen to Receive Valor Medal Upgrades

Clockwise from left: the Air Force Cross, the service's second-highest valor medal, the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross. (U.S. Air Force photos)
Clockwise from left: the Air Force Cross, the service's second-highest valor medal, the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross. (U.S. Air Force photos)

Eight airmen will receive some of the Air Force's highest valor medals after a comprehensive review of awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the service announced Thursday.

Outgoing Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has approved eight airmen to receive a total of nine medal upgrades (one service member will receive two), with awards ranging from the Air Force Cross to the Silver Star to the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor, according to a press release.

The airmen and awards were identified as follows:

Staff Sgt. Christopher Baradat, and Master Sgt. Keary Miller will be awarded the Air Force Cross, the service's second-highest valor medal only to the Medal of Honor; Col. Christopher Barnett, Lt. Col. Gregory Thornton, Lt. Col. Alan Botine, Master Sgt. Kristopher Parker will receive the Silver Star -- Barnett will receive two; and Lt. Col. James Holder and the late Col. David Kennedy will be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.

James on Thursday traveled to Alabama to present Barnett his awards in her last public ceremony before departing the Pentagon.

“There is nothing we can ever really do to thank an airman like Col. Barnett,” she told Military.com. “We can hug them, appreciate them, thank them repeatedly and ensure they are properly recognized. There is nowhere I'd rather be on my last day in office than with Col. Barnett and his family to say thank you on behalf of a grateful Air Force.”

The Air Force had previously said as many as a dozen airmen may be in line for medal upgrades resulting from two separate boards, but that figure appears to have been mistaken.

Missing from the list of eight names was John Chapman, a technical sergeant who was killed in Afghanistan in 2002 while serving as a radioman with Navy SEALs. James, the Air Force secretary, had reportedly pushed for him to receive the Medal of Honor amid evidence that he fought al-Qaeda fighters alone on a mountainside after his unit departed.

That case may still be under consideration as part of a 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. The final count is due to the defense secretary in the fall.

The Air Force reviewed 147 award nominations, which consisted of 12 Air Force Crosses and 135 Silver Stars, Maj. Bryan Lewis recently told Military.com

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

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