Medal of Honor

Fla. Soldier Becomes 1st Black Medal of Honor Recipient From 9/11 Wars

"He was a soldier's soldier," Biden said of Cashe. "Who literally walked through fire for his troops."

Alwyn Cashe
U.S. Army via AP

Kasinal Cashe White was at her brother's bedside when the Army infantryman died in 2005 from severe burns he suffered while rescuing fellow soldiers from the flaming wreckage of their vehicle in Iraq.

Sixteen years later, her late sibling was finally awarded the U.S. government's highest military decoration for acts of valor. Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who served in the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, became the first Black U.S. service member to receive the Medal of Honor for actions since 9/11.

“My baby brother will go down in history,” White told the Ledger-Enquirer. “His name and his actions will be forever memorialized.”

Cashe's widow, Tamara, accepted the Medal of Honor award from President Joe Biden at a White House ceremony Thursday. Two other U.S. soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan also received the award for their valorous acts in separate battles.

"He was a hero. He was a beloved son and brother, and a proud husband and father of three children," Biden said. "Sgt. Cashe and his family gave everything for our country."

The youngest of 10 children, Cashe grew up in Oviedo, Florida, near Orlando and entered the military after graduating from high school.

According to the Army, Cashe was on patrol near Samarra, Iraq, in October 2005 when the Bradley armored vehicle he was commanding came under attack and an exploding roadside bomb set it ablaze.

Cashe pulled six fellow soldiers and an interpreter from the burning wreckage, making several trips to the vehicle, while receiving horrific burns himself. He was hospitalized with second and third-degree burns over nearly three-fourths of his body.

Three of the soldiers Cashe rescued perished from their injuries. Cashe was transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he died the following month. He was 35 years old.

"He was a soldier's soldier," Biden said of Cashe. "Who literally walked through fire for his troops."

Cashe was initially nominated for and received the Silver Star, the Army’s third-highest award for valor in combat. He was also presented with the Purple Heart, which is reserved for those wounded in battle, before he died.

However, Cashe's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Gary Brito, and others felt he deserved more. Brito nominated Cashe in 2009 for an upgraded honor, which was stalled in the Pentagon for several years. Brito, who is now a three-star general at the Pentagon, continued to campaign for Cashe's upgrade. In 2020, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper voiced support for the effort and advocated for his Medal of Honor in a letter to lawmakers requesting they waive the military’s five-year time limit for awarding the nation’s highest military honor. Congress swiftly passed legislation that cleared the way for Cashe to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

"The devotion to his memory and the years working to make sure his courage and selflessness was properly documented and honored is a testament to the love he inspired and the legacy he left behind," Biden said, adding that he is "honored" to award him the "recognition that he earned."

He is only the seventh solider to receive a Medal of Honor for actions of valor during Operation Iraq Freedom.

Also honored at the White House Thursday was Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz. The Army Ranger, based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, died in 2018 after stepping between Taliban fighters and a U.S. helicopter evacuating wounded.

The third Medal of Honor recipient, Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee, fought off Taliban insurgents after a massive attack in Afghanistan in 2013. Pumlee currently serves with the 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis, Washington.

The Associated Press/NBC
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