Last month, Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pinned Purple Hearts on four fellow Marines at a remote outpost in northern Iraq. They and four others were wounded in an attack by the Islamic State group that killed their buddy, Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

Less than a week later, Dunford was seated before the Senate Armed Services Committee, serving as a lightning rod for lawmakers’ frustration with the White House’s refusal to recognize that U.S. troops deployed to help in the fight against the ISIS were on a “combat” mission.

Dunford wouldn’t answer for the White House, but he didn’t mince words in expressing his view: Cardin “was killed in combat, senator,” he told the Republican from Alaska, Dan Sullivan. So, too, was Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a Special Forces soldier killed in Iraq last October as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

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Image courtesy of US Air Force