The commanding officer of a 2008 tour in Afghanistan that included then-U.S. Army Major Troy Nehls told The Texas Tribune that he recalls awarding the now-congressman his second Bronze Star award.

That award — which recognizes service members who show heroism in the field — has been called into question after a CBS investigation reported Nehls had been touting military decorations that did not match his service record provided by the Pentagon. In campaign ads and in his House biography, Nehls, R-Richmond, has posted pictures of him in an Army uniform wearing two Bronze Star medals. He has also worn the Combat Infantryman Badge lapel pin, awarded to soldiers for service in combat.

The investigation found that the Pentagon reported Nehls only received one Bronze Star and that the Combat Infantryman Badge was awarded in error and rescinded in 2023. Nehls, who has been publicly criticized by members of his own party amid the claims of stolen valor, said on social media that he did have two Bronze Stars. But he has since stopped wearing the CIB.

But Jason Burke, the Navy captain who led the 130-person joint task force Nehls served on during his tour, recalled awarding the medal to Nehls. Nehls received the medal at a ceremony with several other officers in the fall of 2008, shortly before Nehls finished his tour and returned to Texas, Burke told the Tribune.

“You’re getting that award if you’ve done a good job and met the criteria,” said the now-retired Burke, who is listed on the award certificate as Nehls’ commanding officer. “He earned it, and received it.”

Nehls, who represents a swath of Houston suburbs, served as Burke’s second-in-command under a joint effort called Task Force Currahee. Their unit, which included both Army and Navy officers, worked on provincial reconstruction, building roads, clinics and schools in eastern Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province. Burke said the team’s convoys regularly came under Taliban ambushes and guerilla attacks.

The Bronze Star award must be recommended by a commander, and any service member in any branch of the military working an operation involving a conflict with an opposing force of the U.S. is eligible. The CIB, by contrast, is only given to those in combat roles.

It was relatively standard during the U.S.’ war on terrorism, after the Sept. 11 attacks, for officers of certain ranks to receive some kind of award upon completing a tour, often a Bronze Star. Nehls’ first star was awarded for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, where he trained 13 staff members of an Iraqi government office to perform financial assessments, according to the certificate.

A spokesperson for Nehls declined to comment on this story, pointing to a post on X Nehls made last month defending his record and posting photos of the certificates of his two Bronze stars, and his copy of the underlying nomination forms. Burke’s sign-off can be seen on the 2008 documentation, known as Form 638, along with signatures from two higher-level officials.

CBS reported the Pentagon would conduct another review of Nehls’ record. The most recent summary of his service and awards, provided to the Tribune by a Pentagon spokesperson on Friday, lists only one Bronze Star and no CIB.

The systems for records keeping for military awards can be difficult to navigate. Soldiers often become responsible for making sure awards paperwork is turned over to a personnel officer.

That means documentation for awards sometimes slips through the cracks, according to retired Army sergeant Anthony Anderson, who has investigated numerous instances of stolen valor.

“I wouldn’t say it’s common, but it does happen,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he had previously spoken with Nehls’ chief of staff, encouraging them to submit documentation of the second Bronze Star to the Pentagon to be added to Nehls record.

He said he would be surprised if an officer in Nehls’ position hadn’t received a Bronze Star.

Nehls’ military record has become a thorn for him in recent months. He announced that he would stop wearing the Combat Infantryman Badge last week in response to reports that the badge had been revoked in 2023.

Nehls was found to be ineligible for that badge because he had served in Afghanistan in a civil role, not as a combatant infantryman. Nehls did serve as an infantryman during his time with the Wisconsin National Guard in the 1990s, completing a tour in Bosnia.

Amid stolen valor accusations, ex-commanding officer confirms he issued Rep. Troy Nehls’ second Bronze Star” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. Learn more at

Military Times has edited the original headline.

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