(WASHINGTON) — Two former Navy SEALs, who were killed responding to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, last September, could be honored with a Congressional medal for their bravery if a group of Republican lawmakers gets their way.
“They went above and beyond the call of duty,” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told ABC News.
With nine fellow Republican co-sponsors, Hunter introduced legislation on Thursday that would posthumously award ex-SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest honors given by Congress.
Woods and Doherty, who served more than three decades in the Navy between them before their discharge, were working as independent contractors with the CIA in Libya when they were killed together on the rooftop of a CIA annex in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
Hours earlier, Woods had raced from the annex to the aid of Americans in another U.S. diplomatic facility that had come under attack, trapping U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and several other officials. While under fire, Woods and his colleagues evacuated the facility and ferried its the survivors to the nearby CIA annex. However, they were too late to save Ambassador Stevens and computer specialist Sean Smith, who both died as a result of the attack.
Doherty, who was in Tripoli when word of the initial assault came through, was part of a response team that rushed to charter a private plane to fly into Benghazi to help their distressed colleagues. After arriving at the CIA facility in Benghazi hours later, Doherty went to the roof to check on Woods.
It was then that a second attack wave was launched, this time on the CIA annex, and Doherty and Woods were soon killed in the mortar strike.
In an unclassified State Department account of the incident, the department praised the “U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi [who] performed with courage and readiness to risk their lives to protect their colleagues, in a near impossible situation.”
Kate Quigley, Doherty’s sister, previously told ABC News she was not surprised to learn that her brother had run toward the sound of gunfire.
“These guys on the ground fought courageously, heroically,” Quigley said in December. “We’ve always known guys like Glen and the guys that he worked with… They don’t hesitate ever. This is what they do.”
Woods’ father, Charles, told U-T San Diego his son never did the dangerous work for the recognition, but, “He deserves it as an inspiration to other people.”
Hunter said he introduced the bill because Woods and Doherty were working as private contractors and therefore weren’t eligible for military or State Department medals for their heroism.
“I think this is a good way to go to recognize them, before the American people and Congress,” said Hunter, himself a Marine veteran.
The Congressional Gold Medal, which was created to recognize “historical events and outstanding achievements by individuals or institutions,” has been awarded to a diverse group of 150 people since 1776, including George Washington, Neil Armstrong and Jackie Robinson, according to a 2012 Congressional report.
The medal has previously been given to “acclaimed lifesavers,” as “Congress has still periodically expressed its own admiration for acts of heroism.” It was also awarded to the “Fallen Heroes of 9/11″ in “honor of the men and women who perished as a result of the terrorist attacks…”
Hunter’s bill has been referred to the House Financial Services Committee.
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Kevin Liptak, CNN
Ruth Brown, Idaho Press-Tribune
Shelbie Harris, Idaho State Journal