President Joe Biden will be awarding three Medals of Honor next week to three U.S. Army soldiers. Two of the honors will be given posthumously to Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher A. Celiz, and the third honor to Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made the announcement from the White House on Friday, after reports surfaced earlier this week.
Cashe 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.
Celiz was killed after stepping in the line of fire as the Taliban attacked a U.S. helicopter evacuating American soldiers in 2018.
Plumlee heroically fought Taliban suicide bombers at FOB Ghazni, Afghanistan in 2013.
In May, Biden awarded his first Medal of Honor to Army Ranger Ralph Puckett for his heroics during the Korean War.
Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe
On Oct. 17, 2005, 35-year-old Cashe’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Samara, Iraq, destroying the vehicle’s fuel tank and setting it on fire — along with the soldiers inside. Cashe was not critically injured in the initial blast, and he returned to the burning vehicle to rescue six fellow soldiers, accumulating second- and third-degree burns across 70 percent of his body while being exposed to enemy gunfire. He succumbed to his injuries 22 days after the incident.
Cashe was previously awarded the Silver Star for his heroics, but difficulties with gathering witnesses and evidence of his actions slowed a previous attempt to honor him with the Medal of Honor beyond the allowable time period. Congress had to pass a bill, H.R. 8276, to waive 10 U.S.C. § 7274, a mandatory five-year time period the Medal of Honor must be awarded after the heroic act, in order for Cashe to be eligible. Trump signed the legislation in December 2020, but a formal recommendation from the DOD and final president approval was still needed to finalize the award.
Cashe will be the first black service member who served in Iraq or Afghanistan to receive the award.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher A. Celiz
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Andrew Celiz was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. On July 12, 2018, 32-year-old Celiz was on his seventh career deployment – his fifth with the 75th Ranger Regiment – and was killed by enemy fire while protecting evacuating American and allied troops from Zurmat district, Paktiya province, Afghanistan.
Celiz intentionally stepped into enemy fire to man a heavy weapon system, providing cover fire for U.S. and partner forces conducting a medical evacuation. An Afghan security force member was also killed and several others injured during the operation.
Celiz used his body to shield his team as a casualty was loaded into an aircraft awaiting liftoff. He was struck as the helicopter began to lift off, and ordered the crew to leave him behind as he continued to fire at enemy forces, providing cover that allowed for the safe evacuation and prevented further casualties.
Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee
While serving as a Weapons Sergeant, C Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), then-Staff Sgt. Earl Plumlee responded to a Taliban suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan on Aug. 28, 2013. The attack caused a 60-foot breach in the perimeter wall at FOB Ghazni, allowing Taliban forces in Afghan Army uniforms and suicide vests to flood in the base. Plumlee and five of his fellow Green Berets operated two vehicles amid enemy fire to confront the insurgents.
Armed with only his pistol, he left the cover of the vehicles to engage the insurgents. He killed one insurgent using a grenade, and another by shooting an insurgent’s suicide vest to detonate it. He engaged other insurgents from close range and came within seven meters from an insurgent who detonated a suicide vest. After yet another insurgent detonated a suicide vest, mortally wounding a fellow U.S. soldier, Plumlee braved enemy fire to carry the soldier to safety and render first aid.
Plumlee originally enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard in 1998. He then served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2000 to 2008, and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2009. He currently serves as Senior Weapons Sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis, Wash.