Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe. US Army photo.
Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, the soldier who died of wounds suffered while pulling seven men from a burning vehicle in Iraq in 2005, is poised to finally receive the Medal of Honor and become the first Black recipient of the medal since the Vietnam War, according to Newsweek.
Newsweek reported that two sources familiar with the process confirmed that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has signed off on Cashe’s receiving the Medal of Honor, and a third source has confirmed that Cashe’s family has been notified and that the White House is working to set a date for the award ceremony.
Cashe, who died Nov. 8, 2005, of catastrophic burns he sustained while saving his soldiers, has long been championed as one of the most deserving heroes of the War on Terror to be passed over for the Medal of Honor.
On Oct. 17, 2005, Cashe was serving with Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day.
“Without regard for his personal safety, Sergeant First Class Cashe rushed to the back of the vehicle, reaching into the hot flames and started pulling out his soldiers,” his Silver Star citation reads. “The flames gripped his fuel soaked uniform. Flames quickly spread all over his body. Despite the terrible pain, Sergeant First Class Cashe placed the injured soldier on the ground and returned to the burning vehicle to retrieve another burning soldier; all the while, he was still on fire.”
Cashe pulled six American soldiers and one Iraqi interpreter from the burning vehicle that day. He suffered severe burns on more than 70% of his body. When he arrived at the aid station, he reportedly tried to wave off medical care, saying, “I’m good, I’m good, take care of my guys.”
Then Brig. Gen. Gary Brito, who served as Cashe’s battalion commander, initiated the process to have the Silver Star upgraded to the nation’s highest award for valor when he “realized the extent of the fallen soldier’s ordeal, after omitted details emerged about enemy fire and other factors that further clarified Cashe’s already harrowing experience,” according to Newsweek.
“You don’t often find truly selfless sacrifice where someone put his soldiers’ welfare before his own,” Brito said in 2014. “Sgt. Cashe was horribly wounded and continued to fight to save his men.”
The yearslong effort to upgrade Cashe’s Silver Star to the nation’s highest award for valor appears to be at its end. Newsweek reported that a veterans advocate familiar with the upgrade process confirmed the White House is planning the ceremony for Cashe’s Medal of Honor.
The White House has not yet made an official announcement or set a date for the ceremony, but Cashe’s family and the myriad supporters who have worked for years to see his actions recognized with the Medal of Honor have much to celebrate.
Ethan E. Rocke is a contributor and former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine, a New York Times bestselling author, and award-winning photographer and filmmaker. He is a veteran of the US Army and Marine Corps. His work has been published in Maxim Magazine, American Legion Magazine, and many others. He is co-author of The Last Punisher: A SEAL Team THREE Sniper’s True Account of the Battle of Ramadi.
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