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Rep. Troy Nehls Denies Accusations of ‘Stolen Valor,’ Defends Wearing Combat Infantry Badge Pin

“The ‘Big Army’ says there’s a discrepancy,” Nehls said. “What the hell is that discrepancy?”

Troy Nehls
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Rep. Troy Nehls denied that he had “stolen valor” and doubled down on wearing a Combat Infantryman Badge, days after several of his Republican colleagues told NOTUS he needed to take it off.

The Texas Republican posted a letter on X Wednesday that he sent to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command disagreeing with the Army’s decision to revoke his CIB in 2023. Nehls wrote the letter after NOTUS inquired about his decision to continue to wear the pin and accusations from his Republican colleagues that he is stealing valor.

“I disagree with the Awards and Decorations Branch revokation of my CIB which was awarded by the 101st Airborne Division,” Nehls wrote. “I further believe this is a concerted effort to discredit my military service and continued service to the American people as a Member of Congress.”

Nehls went on to ask the Army, who it had spoken to in the 101st Airborne Division before revoking his CIB.

Walking up to the Capitol steps on Tuesday night, Nehls was still wearing the CIB pin. The Army revoked the award because Nehls’ served as a civil affairs officer and it was mistakenly awarded, per a CBS News investigation and review by the Department of Defense and U.S. Army.

“I have an 11B designation,” Nehls told NOTUS Tuesday, referring to the administrative designation for enlisted Infantry, insinuating that he was targeted for being a supporter of Donald Trump.

“The ‘Big Army’ says, there’s a discrepancy,” Nehls said. “What the hell is that discrepancy?”

He continued: “How many CIBs have been revoked from soldiers since enduring Operation Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom. That’s going to be a good, good question, isn’t it? So how many CIBs had been revoked from soldiers, or is it just Troy Nehls, Mr. MAGA guy?”

According to paperwork reviewed by NOTUS, which matches public documentation of Nehls’ service record, the lawmaker was deployed as a civil affairs officer in Afghanistan from February to November of 2008, when he received the Combat Infantryman Badge. Civil affairs officers are not eligible for the Combat Infantryman Badge. Nehls’ previously served in the Infantry as an enlisted soldier and officer before 2003.

Nehls claimed the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan gave him the award, and that he is eligible for the pin. Nehls said he previously inquired about the “discrepancy” and that he “heard nothing.”

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The Army did not respond to NOTUS’ request for comment by publication time. According to the Army’s documentation on award eligibility for the Combat Infantryman Badge, any “personnel with other than an Infantry or Special Forces MOS are not eligible, regardless of the circumstances.”

House Republicans have grown increasingly frustrated with Nehls for wearing the badge. Several have accused the Texas Republican of “stolen valor,” and one called it an “abuse of power.” Multiple House Republicans called on Nehls to remove the badge in interviews with NOTUS.

“It matters. As a former commander, it matters what you wear on your uniform,” Rep. Ryan Zinke, a retired Navy SEAL, previously told NOTUS. “And if you didn’t earn it, you shouldn’t wear it.”

Nehls was deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of his career.

John T. Seward is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.