On Monday morning, the Navy SEAL who executed a daring hostage rescue in Afghanistan received a Medal of Honor for his heroism.
Senior Chief Special Operator Edward Byers was a member of SEAL Team Six. During a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Joseph from the clutches of the Taliban, Byers exposed himself to heavy enemy fire to take out the guards shooting his teammates. Once he muscled his way inside the building, leaving dead or unconscious Taliban members in his wake, Byers shielded Joseph from gunfire with his own body.
The firefight resulted in a single casualty: Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque. Byers performed CPR on Checque during the 40-minute helicopter trip to the nearest hospital, to no avail.
Though the entire rescue lasted mere minutes, the military credits Byers for saving the lives of the hostage and most of his team. Byers’ refusal to give up on Checque was also heroic in its own right.
At the award ceremony, President Obama personally bestowed the medal on Byers and delivered an address detailing his accomplishments.
“Even if he had never performed the actions for which he is being recognized here today, Ed Byers would be long remembered for his compassion, his sacrifice and his endurance: 11 overseas deployments, nine combat tours, recipient of the Purple Heart twice, Bronze Star with valor five times,” Obama said.
Checque was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. Byers took a moment to praise his comrade’s sacrifice after he accepted his Medal of Honor.
“If it wasn’t for that team, I wouldn’t be standing here today. Specifically for me, my teammate, brother, friend, Nic Checque, the award is truly his,” Byers said. “He was an American hero. He was the hero of that operation. He was killed during that operation. He died a warrior. He died to bring back another American. I believe our nation owes him a debt of gratitude. He lived his life as a warrior, and he carried out the toughest missions selflessly and fearlessly. He made the ultimate sacrifice that day.”
You can watch the entire ceremony in the video below.