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Alwyn Cashe would be first black war on terror vet to receive Medal of Honor if Congress acts

Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, in an undated photo. Cashe died Nov. 8, 2005, three weeks after sacrificing his life to save his Soldiers from a burning vehicle. (U.S. Army/Released)
September 02, 2020

Defense Secretary Mark Esper endorsed a lawmaker push for U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe to receive the Medal of Honor, which would make him the first Black service member who served in Iraq or Afghanistan to receive the award.

Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Dan Crenshaw, and Michael Waltz, had written to Esper in October 2019 requesting Cashe’s Silver Star be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. On Friday, the lawmakers released a joint statement announcing Esper’s written conclusion agreeing with the request.

“After giving the nomination careful consideration, I agree that SFC Cashe’s actions merit award of the Medal of Honor,” Esper wrote in his response to the lawmakers in a letter from Aug. 24.

However, Esper noted Congress must act to waive the five-year time limit between a heroic act and the awarding of the Medal of Honor.

“10 U.S.C. § 7274 requires that the Medal of Honor be awarded ‘within five years after the date of the act justifying the award.’ Before we can take further action with this nomination, Congress must waive this time limit,” Esper wrote, adding that once the action is taken, he will send his endorsement to the president, who holds the final decision to award the medal.

- ADVERTISEMENT -

On Oct. 17, 2005, Cashe’s vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Samara, Iraq. Cashe was not injured in the initial blast, but he returned to the burning vehicle to rescue six soldiers, accumulating second- and third-degree burns across 70 percent of his body while being exposed to enemy gunfire, according to Military Times.

Cashe succumbed to his injuries 22 days after the incident.

“SFC Cashe saved the lives of multiple soldiers, but suffered severe burns in the process and ultimately died from those burns. SFC Cashe has become something of a legend in military circles, the object of profound respect and even reverence,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

“Each of us was deeply moved upon learning of SFC Cashe’s heroism. We believe that SFC Cashe has earned the highest award for military valor that our nation bestows,” the lawmakers added.

The lawmakers have vowed to work toward waiving the statute of limitations and paving way for Cashe’s award to be upgraded.