By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum and 12 other servicemen killed in Afghanistan in August will posthumously receive the Congressional Gold Medal, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney announced Monday.
McCollum, a Jackson native, was one of 13 soldiers killed in Afghanistan last month as the U.S. military pulled out of the country after 20 years of fighting.
“On August 26, 2021, Rylee McCollum and 12 other servicemembers made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation,” Cheney wrote on social media Monday. “Today, the House voted to posthumously honor these fallen American heroes with the Congressional Gold Medal. Their bravery will never be forgotten.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’ highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by people or institutions. Congress has been awarding gold medals since the Revolutionary War, and President George Washington was among its first recipients.
More than 170 people, institutions and events have received the medal, including the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King and late President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, just to name a few.
The most recent awardees included the U.S. Capitol police officers who kept legislators safe during the January attack on the building.
Usually, the awardee’s likeness is engraved onto the medal.
McCollum’s heroism has been lauded since his death, with people all over the nation donating to the care and education of his recently born daughter, Levi Rylee Rose. More than $1 million was raised for the McCollum family.
McCollum’s funeral was held over the weekend, more than a month after his body had been brought back to Wyoming.