President Donald Trump signed legislation on Friday authorizing the Medal of Honor to be posthumously awarded to U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who died after rescuing six fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle that had been hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Samarra, Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005.
The White House announced Trump signed H.R. 8276, which waives a five-year time period the Medal of Honor must be awarded after the heroic act. The bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives without objection in late September, and in the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent in November.
While Trump’s signature on H.R. 8276 waives the five-year requirement to award the Medal of Honor, a formal recommendation for the award must now be brought through the Department of Defense and approved by the president for the military honor to be presented. In a Friday press statement, Reps. Murphy, Waltz, and Crenshaw said they had written to Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, urging him to make the recommendation to the President.
If the Medal of Honor process is completed, Cashe would be the first black service member who served in Iraq or Afghanistan to receive the award.
On Oct. 17, 2005, the vehicle Cashe was in was hit by an IED. He was not injured in the initial IED blast, but continuously exposed himself to enemy gunfire and as he returned to his vehicle to rescue six of his fellow soldiers trapped in the vehicle. As he returned to the burning vehicle, Cashe sustained second and third-degree across 70 percent of his body. He died from his wounds 22 days later on Nov. 8, 2005.
Cashe previously received the Silver Star for his heroics, but difficulties with gathering witnesses and evidence of his actions complicated slowed an earlier attempt to recognize Cashe with the Medal of Honor, according to Military.com. Having missed the initial five-year window for awarding the Medal of Honor, H.R. 8276 had to be drafted and passed by Congress and the president.
H.R. 8276 was sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) along with Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), who is the first U.S. Army Green Beret to serve in Congress, and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a U.S. Navy SEAL-turned congressman.
Following Trump’s signature on Friday, Murphy said, “Now that we have enacted bipartisan legislation to remove the only obstacle standing in the way of Alwyn receiving the Medal of Honor, which the Department of Defense has already concluded he earned, I hope the President will move swiftly to announce the award.”
Waltz said, “This is a monumental accomplishment for Alwyn’s family, who have waited 15 years for this moment. I’m very optimistic the Department of Defense will recommend this award. I’m very grateful and proud to have been part of this bipartisan effort—and I’m looking forward to the ceremony at the White House to bestow this great honor to Alwyn and show our nation’s profound gratitude to his family for his selfless act of courage.”
Crenshaw said, “I applaud President Trump for signing our bill into law, recognizing Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe for his bravery in risking his own life to save his fellow soldiers. He is deserving of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for bravery on the battlefield, and now he is finally receiving proper recognition for his bravery and sacrifice.”