WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fabled Navy SEAL Team Six member Edward Byers was presented with the Medal of Honor at the White House for his role in rescuing an American doctor being held captive by Afghan Taliban terrorists in 2012.
On Monday morning, President Obama bestowed the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat on Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Byers.
During the ceremony, Byers praised his teammate, Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque, who was fatally hit by Taliban fire during the rescue mission.
“If it wasn’t for that team, I wouldn’t be standing here today. Specifically for me, my teammate, brother, friend, Nic Checque, the award is truly his. He was an American hero,” said Byers. “He was the hero of that operation. He was killed during that operation.”
“He died a warrior. He died to bring back another American. I believe our nation owes him a debt of gratitude. He lived his life as a warrior, and he carried out the toughest missions selflessly and fearlessly. He made the ultimate sacrifice that day,” he added.
Checque was awarded the Navy Cross, becoming one of “70 members of the Naval Special Warfare community, 55 of them SEALs, who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11,” said President Obama.
The president noted that only five other SEALs have been conferred the prestigious Medal of Honor prior to Byers.
“Ed is defined by a deep sense of humility, he doesn’t seek the spotlight, in fact he shuns it. He’s the consummate quiet professional,” said Obama during the White House event. “Today’s ceremony is truly unique — a rare opportunity for the American people to get a glimpse of a special breed of warrior that so often serves in the shadows.”
The encounter involved “hand-to-hand combat” with various Taliban jihadists, revealed Obama.
An unclassified summary obtained by CNN from a defense official revealed that Byers “displayed superior gallantry, extraordinary heroism at grave personal risk” and is “unquestionably deserving of the Medal of Honor.”
The rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph took place in eastern Afghanistan and resulted in the death of a member of the fabled Navy SEAL Team Six — Cheque.
President Obama mentioned the most crucial moments of the rescue operation during Monday’s ceremony in the East Room.
“When the rescuers were less than 100 feet from the building where Joseph was being held, a guard came out and bullets started flying. SEALs rushed to a doorway, and Byers started ripping down blankets that covered it, exposing himself to enemy fire,” reports CNN.
The report adds:
The leader of the rescue group pushed inside and was hit. When Byers moved inside next, a guard aimed his rifle at him, and Byers fired. Byers tackled another person, straddled him and pinned him down. When he adjusted his night vision goggles, he found that was on top of another guard.
Dr. Joseph later described the incident, noting that men and exploding gunfire suddenly filled up the dark room and the beams of light from the shots could be seen in very direction.
“I’m right here,” answered the hostage.
Hearing English, Byers leaped across the room and threw himself onto the hostage, using his body to shield him from bullets. When another enemy fighter appeared, Byers pinned the fighter to the wall and held him until his teammates took action. It was over almost as soon as it began. In just minutes, by going after those guards, Byers saved the lives of several teammates and Joseph.
Byers made an effort to save Checque, the team member who had been hit by Taliban fire.
As a certified paramedic, he performed CPR during the 40-minute flight back to Bagram Air Base, located in eastern Afghanistan’s Parwan province, about 38 miles north of country’s capital Kabul, declared President Obama.
“People may not always see them, we may not always hear of their success, but they are there in the thick of the fight, in the dark of night, achieving their mission,” said President Obama, before delivering the commendation for the hero.
President Obama revealed that at the time of the doctor’s rescue, the U.S. believed a Taliban commander was on his way to take Joseph hostage and move him to Pakistan.
Byers became the 11th living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.
Byers, 36, has been assigned to various SEAL teams since joining the Navy in 1998 as a corpsman.
“Even if he had never performed the actions for which he is being recognized here today, Ed Byers would be long remembered for his compassion, his sacrifice and his endurance: 11 overseas deployments, nine combat tours, recipient of the Purple Heart twice, Bronze Star with valor five times,” noted President Obama.