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The Medal of Honor is not awarded frequently. It is our nation’s highest decoration for valor, so it is only presented to those who have demonstrated extreme courage in the face of the enemy. On February 29, one man who displayed bravery in every sense of the word will be given the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House.
Just a little over three years ago, several highly trained operators of SEAL Team Six, the unit credited with killing Osama bin Laden, took part in a clandestine hostage recovery mission in Afghanistan. Their task was to rescue Dilip Joseph, a medical director for a non-profit that seeks to expand medical care to some of the more remote regions in Afghanistan, after he had been taken hostage by the Taliban.
After moving through the rough, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, the small team of Navy SEALs arrived at the Taliban compound shortly after midnight. Their arrival alerted some dogs and sheep, which subsequently caused Joseph’s captors to become suspicious and check the surrounding area. After a brief investigation, the two men who ventured outside to see what had startled the animals were convinced there was nothing out of the ordinary, so they went back inside the small shack where Joseph had been kept for the past five days.
Then, suddenly, gunshots broke the night’s relative silence. The SEALs had been spotted by a sentry. Likely realizing he was vastly outmanned and outgunned, the guard retreated into the shack. The point man, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicholas Checque, followed the man inside. Soon after entering the building, Checque was shot.
The next man behind him, Chief Special Operator Edward Byers, quickly rushed in. Almost immediately, he tackled an enemy fighter, allowing a teammate to search for the hostage, Joseph. After one of the SEALs shouted, “Is Dilip Joseph here?” Joseph identified himself. Byers then laid down on top of him, shielding from any harm the enemy may have tried to inflict during the confusion in those key minutes of the mission.
Byers then asked about Joseph’s health and welfare, only stopping to pin the last enemy fighter against a wall and directing his teammates to kill him. Once the building was clear, the SEALs moved Joseph to relative safety where they waited for exfiltration via helicopter. During that time, the SEALs “sandwiched” Joseph between their bodies in order to protect him from any potential hostile fire. Finally, when the helicopter arrived, Joseph was extracted from the area. Sadly, the first SEAL through the door, Checque, did not have as fortunate a fate. Though his friends did all they could to save him, including performing CPR inside the helicopter while en route to Bagram Airfield, the 28-year-old SEAL didn’t survive and was pronounced dead upon landing.
Joseph later described the raid as “clinical,” referring to the SEALs’ world renowned surgical precision. As a result of that precision, Joseph was able to return home safely.
Now, three years later, Byers, the SEAL who tackled the enemy combatant to the ground, will be presented with the Medal of Honor. He will be the 11th man to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan over the last decade and a half.
His courage and audacity, as well as his quick thinking, likely saved the life of an innocent man — a man who was in a foreign country attempting to better the lives of others. Byers bravely put himself at risk so that one man could return home safely to his loved ones and continue his mission of bringing medical care to those in need. His actions are the epitome of selfless service, of courage in the face of extreme danger, and of dedication to duty. He is the absolute definition of a hero. He has most certainly earned the Medal of Honor, and I, as well as many members of a grateful nation, look forward to seeing him receive it..
[via USA Today]
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