President Donald Trump issued the Medal of Honor to a former Navy SEAL Team Six member who attempted to rescue a team member from an Afghan mountain in 2002.
Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt Slabinski received the high honor “for conspicuous gallantry” according to the White House.
“Today we pay tribute to Britt’s heroic service and we proudly present him with our nation’s highest military honor,” President Trump said. “And I would go so far as to say our nation’s highest honor.”
Over a decade ago, Slabinski led a reconnaissance team to a 10,000-foot mountaintop in order to assist anti-Al-Qaida troops in the valley below. After the team’s helicopter was shot down by enemy forces, Slabinski navigated his team of six through “waist deep snow” while carrying a critically injured teammate.
Yet Slabinski’s character has been called into question by former military colleagues.
“I’ve read excerpts of what he did in that battle and it certainly seems Medal of Honor-worthy retired SEAL Dick Couch told Politico. “[Slabinski] certainly has been accused of some very bad things. I would hope that if somebody is not comporting themselves well otherwise it would be factored in.”
Slabinski faced accusations of excessive force while serving with the Navy, most notably based on a 2005 interview where he allegedly described mutilating the body of an informant and subsequently ordered his squadron to murder male Afagans before a raid, an allegation which he denies according to Politico.
Yet the White House only responded to the publications inquiry with a statement describing Slabinski’s valor.
The retired Navy SEAL told military publication “Breaking Defense” that he plans on accepting the award “with great humility, because all my guys followed me up the mountain that day, as did the aircrews that kept the flights coming, and the Rangers who came not because they knew us, but because they knew we were in trouble.”
The Trump administration has billed themselves as one that has re-focused support of the armed forces; back in March, Trump reportedly pitched his staff on hosting a parade dedicated solely to the troops.
The White House only awards the medal of honor when there is “no margin of doubt or possibility of error in awarding this honor” according to an administration read out. Slabinski was joined by his son, significant other, and her children.
“Your immortal acts of valor are engraved in the memory of the nation,” Trump said of the entire Navy SEAL team. “Our nation will always be grateful to you.”