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House bill calls for congressional medal for heroes in Benghazi attack

- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2013

A House Republican introduced a resolution Thursday to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the two former Navy SEALs who were killed as they defended American diplomats and CIA officers from Islamic extremists in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11.

Eight other Republicans have endorsed Rep. Duncan Hunter's bill, which would grant Congress' most prestigious award posthumously to Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

"As the attack unfolded, they bravely attempted to defend American property and protect United States diplomatic personnel," the resolution states. "In so doing, they selflessly sacrificed their own lives."

Doherty, a 12-year SEAL, and Woods, who served 20 years, were employed by the State Department to provide security in Benghazi, which was increasingly swarming with pro-al Qaeda extremists.

A group of heavily armed terrorists besieged the U.S. diplomatic compound and a nearby CIA annex on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., killing Doherty and Woods, as well as U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and State Department officer Sean Smith.

Doherty and Woods were killed by mortar rounds as they defended the annex.

The Congressional Research Service says the Congressional Gold Medal "is often considered the most distinguished."

"Since 1776, this award, which initially was bestowed on military leaders, has also been given to such diverse individuals as Sir Winston Churchill and Bob Hope, George Washington and Robert Frost, Joe Louis and Mother Teresa of Calcutta," the research service said in a March 5 report. "Most recently, a Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to Raoul Wallenberg in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust."

Mr. Hunter, California Republican, told The Washington Times: "Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods are American heroes for what they did during the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. As former SEALs, their actions were consistent with the way that elite operators are trained and conditioned to respond, and they sacrificed their lives protecting others.

"Since they were no longer in uniform, their actions won't be recognized by the military awards that represent such extraordinary courage and selflessness under fire," said Mr. Hunter, who saw battle in Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine officer. "The very least Congress can do is rightly honor their memory and sacrifice."

The House rule for considering a nominee states that the "recipient shall have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement."

Under the rule, a posthumous bestowal of the medal requires the subject to have been deceased for at least five years. An award resolution requires approval by two-thirds of the House and the Senate, after which it is signed by the president.

Mr. Hunter's spokesman said that, with the leadership's blessing, those rules can be bypassed and the bill can go directly to the House floor.

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