President Donald Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne on Friday, a Ranger assigned to the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command Delta Force.
Payne led the special operations raid that took place in October 2015 in Northern Iraq, freeing 75 Iraqi citizens from Islamic State terrorists. Twenty-two terrorists were killed in the raid.
He was recognized for courage in the firefight with ISIS fighters and for rushing into a burning building during the raid with a pair of bolt cutters, thence freeing the prisoners inside.
“He wouldn’t leave, no matter what they said. No matter who ordered him to do it, he wouldn’t do it. He was the last one out,” Trump said. “It was one of the largest and most daring rescue missions in American history.”
The Medal of Honor is the most distinguished award in the United States for combat valor.
Payne’s wife Alison and his six-year-old son Aaron were present for the ceremony at the Whtie House.
“I want you to know that your Dad is one of the bravest men anywhere in the world,” Trump said. “I think you knew that before we knew it.”
The president also recognized Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who perished in the raid. Wheeler’s wife Ashley was present for the ceremony.
“Our nation endures because fearless warriors like Josh are willing to lay down their lives for our freedom,” Trump said. “We will honor him forever.”
The ceremony took place at the White House on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The president noted that Payne was first inspired to join the military after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when he was in high school.
“In that moment, Pat was called to action. He knew that his country needed him,” Trump said, noting that he joined the military right out of high school.
Trump noted that Payne was wounded in Iraq by a grenade that sent him back to South Carolina to recover, where he met his wife Alison.
“Well, that was probably not a very bad wound then, wasn’t it,” Trump joked. “I hope you are going to say it was worth it.”