Military Documents Contradict GOP Rep. Troy Nehls’ Military Background Claims

During his tenure and amid his inaugural 2020 bid for Texas’ 22nd District Congressional seat, Republican Rep. Troy Nehls has repeatedly claimed to have received two Bronze Star medals and a Combat Infantryman Badge from his time in the US Army Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is no doubt that Nehls served overseas, participated in combat, and received 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. military at the Pentagon show that Nehls received one, not two, Bronze Star medals. And his Afghanistan combat infantryman badge was revoked from his service record in 2023 because Nehls served as a civil affairs officer, not as an infantryman or Special Forces soldier.

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

“Congressman Nehls does not wear medals he did not receive,” Matthews told CBS News.

Especially within the military, a service member displaying a medal they have not earned is considered deeply offensive. There has been a history of cases disgracing public officials in the past, such as when former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald mistakenly reclaimed had served in the Special Forces or when former Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois wrongly claimed to have received the US Navy Intelligence Officer of the Year award.

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

The Bronze Star Medal is the eighth highest award of the U.S. Army and dates back to World War II. Service members can receive the medal for heroic actions in combat or for meritorious performance in 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 members’ records, publicly asked Nehls to respond to questions about his awards. CBS News previously profiled Anderson and his work.

Army veteran fights for truth against ‘stolen valor’

In his 2020 campaign ad posted on Facebook, Nehls is seen in his Army uniform and military decorations with the top ribbon indicating that he received two Bronze Star medals. The ad claims that Nehls “fought terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan” and that he “led troops into battle and received 2 Bronze Stars.” On his official House of Representatives website, Nehls also indicates in his biography that he has two Bronze Star medals, while the photograph of him shows him wearing the lapel pin with the US Infantryman Insignia. Combat.

The CBS News investigation found that Nehls’ only 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 personnel and four coalition soldiers assigned to the Kirkuk Business Center, which became known as the best business center from all over Iraq.

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

In September 2023, veterans on social media began criticizing the Texas congressman after he posted a Photography of himself on social media in Washington DC holding handcuffs on answer to Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York who activated the fire alarm in a Capitol office building ahead of a last-minute vote in the House to avert a government shutdown.

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

Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, is seen during a House Rules Committee meeting in April 2024 wearing the Combat Infantryman Insignia lapel pin.

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

The Pentagon said Nehls does not have a combat infantryman badge but rather 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 from the infantry and Special Forces community engaged in active ground combat. The Combat Action Badge, created in 2005, is for Army soldiers outside those duty camps but who are also “actively engaging or being attacked by the enemy,” according to U.S. Army publications.

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

While Nehls began his military career as an enlisted infantryman in the Wisconsin National Guard in July 1988, by 2004, Nehls was a civil affairs officer with the rank of captain. He finished his military service with 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 earlier, in March 2008. This decoration was also listed on official discharge and separation documents from Nehls, known as DD Form 214.

However, Nehls and the Pentagon’s military records confirm that the Texas congressman’s service record was changed in March 2023, ultimately revoking his combat infantryman badge. A Pentagon spokesperson explained that the badge was rescinded because Nehls was serving as a civil affairs officer rather than the role of an infantryman or Special Forces soldier.

James LaPorta is a verification producer for CBS News Confirmed. He is a former US Marine Corps soldier and veteran of the Afghanistan War.