President Joe Biden is set to present the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor for valor, to three U.S. soldiers for their service during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on Thursday, including Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, the first Black service member to be honored for heroic actions during the war on terror launched in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
According to the White House, Cashe died on Oct. 17, 2005, while serving in Iraq, after rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle during Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Salah Ad Din Province. He will be remembered after his death.
Cashe died at the age of 35, 16 years ago, and his widow, Tamara Cashe, is set to accept the award on his behalf at a White House ceremony.
Kasinal Cashe-White, Cashe’s sister, described her brother as “very rambunctious,” a “daredevil,” and “a good kid all around.” Cashe grew up in Oviedo, Florida, and enlisted in the United States Army after graduating from Oviedo High School in July 1989. He served as a platoon sergeant in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, during the 1991 Gulf War and in Korea and Germany before being deployed to Iraq in 2005.
When asked how she feels about Cashe receiving the highest award for valor for service during the war on terror, Cashe-White said her brother “earned” the honor through his actions.
Biden will also posthumously honor Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, an Army Ranger who died at 32 years old during a 2018 firefight in Afghanistan, as well as Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee, a Special Forces soldier who fought off Taliban suicide bombers in Afghanistan in 2013 and is set to attend the ceremony, according to the White House. According to a White House press release, each of the service members demonstrated courage and gallantry by putting their own lives on the line to help their comrades, and their actions earned them the honor.
According to the White House, when Cashe’s vehicle was engulfed in flames during an attack, his uniform caught fire, and he sustained severe burns while extinguishing the flames and rescuing his fellow soldiers. Despite his injuries, he repeatedly approached the vehicle and assisted four soldiers in escaping while under fire.
“Despite the severe second and third degree burns covering the majority of his body,” the White House said, “Sergeant First Class Cashe persevered through the pain to encourage his fellow Soldiers and ensure they received needed medical care. When medical evacuation helicopters began to arrive, he selflessly refused evacuation until all of the other wounded Soldiers were first evacuated.”
Celiz, who died of combat wounds on July 12, 2018, in Afghanistan’s Paktia Province, was attacked while leading an operation to disrupt attacks against US and allied forces and saved six lives, according to the White House.
During the operation, he “voluntarily exposed himself to intense enemy machine gun and small arms fire” to assist the United States and its allies in reaching safety and administering aid to a wounded soldier, according to the White House.
After being hit, he signaled for the plane to depart without him.
“His selfless actions saved the life of the evacuated partnered force member and almost certainly saved the lives of other members of his team and the aircrew,” the White House said. While responding to an explosion on the U.S. base, he fought off 10 Taliban suicide bombers dressed in Afghan National Army uniforms and came under fire several times, according to the White House. He placed himself in harm’s way by leaving cover to protect his base and helped render first aid to a wounded soldier, carrying him to safety.