Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe on Thursday became the first black service member to earn the Medal of Honor – the highest military award for valor in the United States – since the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
President Joe Biden posthumously awarded Cashe the medal of honor for his “acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty,” the White House said.
On Oct. 17, 2005, Cashe was fatally injured after saving his fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle during Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Salah Ad Din Province.
“Despite the severe second and third degree burns covering the majority of his body, Sergeant First Class Cashe persevered through the pain to encourage his fellow Soldiers and ensure they received needed medical care,” the White House continued. “When medical evacuation helicopters began to arrive, he selflessly refused evacuation until all of the other wounded Soldiers were first evacuated. Sergeant First Class Cashe’s heroic actions, at the cost of his life, saved the lives of his teammates.”
He was 35 years old when he died, and his widow, Tamara Cashe, will accept the award on his behalf, ABC News reported. The hero’s sister, Kasinal Cashe-White, told the outlet that the award “means everything” to their family.
“We lost our brother. He can’t be replaced. But this award means that his name his legacy will go down in history,” she said.
Originally from Oviedo, Florida, Cashe enlisted in the United States Army in July 1989 shortly after graduating from high school. He served in the Gulf War, as well as Korea and Germany. He later deployed to Iraq while serving as a platoon sergeant in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Cashe was previously awarded the Silver Star, the Army’s third-highest honor for valor in combat, but his battalion commander, Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, and other officers knew that wasn’t enough. His brothers-in-arms advocated for years that Cashe deserved the military’s top honor.
Mr. Biden also awarded the Medal of Honor to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, an Army Ranger who was killed during a firefight in Afghanistan, and Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee, a Special Forces soldier who fought Taliban suicide bombers in Afghanistan in 2013. Plumlee was the only recipient attending the ceremony.
According to the White House, the Medal of Honor is awarded to service members whose “meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life.”