Military documents contradict GOP congressman's military record claims


During his time in office and amid his inaugural 2020 run for Texas’ 22nd District congressional seat, Republican Rep. Troy Nehls has repeatedly claimed to be the recipient of two Bronze Star medals and a Combat Infantryman Badge from his time in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

There is no question that Nehls served overseas, engaged in combat, and was awarded a Bronze Star for his duties there. But military documents obtained by CBS News after a months-long investigation and a review of his service record by the U.S. Army at the Pentagon show Nehls received one – not two – Bronze Star medals. And his Combat Infantryman Badge from Afghanistan was revoked from his service record in 2023 because Nehls served as a civil affairs officer, not as an infantryman or Special Forces soldier.

Contacted by CBS News multiple times by email and phone, Emily Matthews, Nehls’ press secretary, declined to discuss the matter or provide any explanation for the discrepancies.

“Congressman Nehls doesn’t wear medals he wasn’t awarded,” Matthews told CBS News. 

Especially inside the military, a service member displaying any medal he or she has not earned is considered deeply offensive. There have been a history of cases that have brought disgrace to public officials in the past, such as when former Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald erroneously claimed he had served in Special Forces or when former Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois inaccurately claimed to have received the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year award. 

But the case of Nehls is different – and in many ways more confusing, because his record confirms that he did serve overseas and did, in fact, earn a notable commendation.

The Bronze Star medal is the eighth-highest award in the U.S. Army and dates back to World War II. Service members can be awarded the medal for heroic actions in combat or for meritorious performance under what the Army describes as “combat conditions.” 

On Thursday, Army veteran Anthony Anderson, who runs Guardian of Valor, a popular social media website that investigates service member records, publicly asked Nehls to respond to inquiries about his awards. CBS News previously profiled Anderson and his work. 

In his 2020 campaign ad posted to Facebook, Nehls is seen in his Army uniform wearing his military decorations with the top ribbon signifying him being the recipient of two Bronze Star medals. The ad states that Nehls “fought terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan” and that “he led troops into battle receiving 2 Bronze Stars.” On his official House of Representatives website, Nehls also lists in his biography as having two Bronze Star medals while his photograph shows him wearing the Combat Infantryman Badge lapel pin. 

The investigation by CBS News found Nehls’ single Bronze Star medal was awarded to him in September 2004 by now-retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste for his service in Iraq. The award citation obtained by CBS News reads in part: “Captain Nehls trained and mentored nine Iraqi staff members and four coalition soldiers assigned to the Kirkuk Business Center, which became known as the best business center in all of Iraq.” 

Among his numerous awards and decorations for other honorable actions in the U.S. military, the records show no other information for a second Bronze Star medal. Bryce Dubee, a spokesman for the U.S. Army at the Pentagon, told CBS News that Nehls has one Bronze Star medal. 

In September 2023, veterans on social media began to criticize the Texas congressman after he posted a photograph of himself on social media in Washington D.C. holding up handcuffs in response to Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York pulling the fire alarm in a Capitol office building ahead of a last-minute House vote to avert a government shutdown. 

In the photo, Nehls is wearing a Combat Infantryman Badge lapel pin, which traces its roots back to World War II and today is awarded to Army soldiers in the infantry and Special Forces community engaged in active ground combat. 

House Rules Committee April 18
Rep. Troy Nehls, a Texas Republican, is seen during an April 2024 House Rules Committee meeting wearing the Combat Infantryman Badge lapel pin.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images


The Pentagon said Nehls does not have a Combat Infantryman Badge but instead a Combat Action Badge. U.S. Army regulations distinguish between how the two badges are awarded. 

With historical exceptions, the Combat Infantryman Badge is awarded to Army soldiers in the infantry and Special Forces community engaged in active ground combat. The Combat Action Badge — created in 2005 — is for Army soldiers outside those job fields but who are also “actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy,” according to U.S. Army publications. 

In February 2006, Nehls was retroactively awarded the Combat Action Badge for his 2004 deployment to Iraq, per military records obtained by CBS News. 

While Nehls began his military career as an enlisted infantryman with the Wisconsin National Guard in July 1988, by 2004, Nehls was a civil affairs officer at the rank of captain. He ended his military service at the rank of major. 

Military records obtained by CBS News show that Nehls was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge in October 2008 for his actions in Afghanistan seven months prior in March 2008. This decoration was also listed on Nehls’ official discharge and separation documents, known as DD Form 214. 

However, Nehls’ military records and the Pentagon confirm that in March 2023, the Texas congressman’s service record was amended, which ultimately revoked his Combat Infantryman Badge. A Pentagon spokesperson explained that the badge was rescinded due to Nehls serving as a civil affairs officer versus the role of an infantryman or Special Forces soldier. 

James LaPorta is a verification producer with CBS News Confirmed. He is a former U.S. Marine infantryman and veteran of the Afghanistan war.





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