The President awarded Navy Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Ed Byers the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat. Only five other SEALS have received the honor before.
During the ceremony, President Obama said this was truly unique –“a rare opportunity for the American people to get a glimpse of a special breed of warrior that so often serves in the shadows.”
According to the Washington Post, Byers is believed to be the first service member to ever earn the Medal of Honor while assigned to the secretive SEAL Team 6.
What’s even more unique, however, is that the latest Medal of Honor recipient wants to return to war. Some might say it’s in SEAL Team 6’s DNA to return to duty. “This honor carries with it some obligations that I need to carry out,” Byers told the Post in an interview at the Pentagon. “But, I plan to continue doing my job as normal and to continue being a SEAL.”
It’s typical for someone in Byers’ position to lend his name to various causes and events– now that he has this unique platform. There are certainly new demands and pressures that go along with having this title, like perhaps assisting in recruiting efforts. Even more so for someone in the NAVY, or a SEAL – neither of which have had living MOH recipients since Vietnam.
Byers was honored for his “conspicuous gallantry” in support of Operation Enduring Freedom , in Afghanistan, in December of 2012. Byers “sprinted to the door, fully exposed to enemy fire,” pulled down blankets from the ceiling to clear a path for other members of his team. He rushed into the room and attacked another male, engaging him in a hand- to -hand struggle, during a hostage rescue operation.
Byers raced to shield the American civilian -being held hostage by Taliban insurgents- from the high volume of fire in the small room. Byers covered him with his body and immobilized another guard with his bare hands, restraining him, until a teammate could eliminate him.
During the emotional ceremony, Monday, Byers was awarded for his “bold actions under fire, undaunted courage, unwavering devotion to duty.. in the face of near certain death” — as he upheld the “highest tradition of the US Naval Service.”
If Byers does return to war, he will be the first MOH recipient since Vietnam to return to the battlefield. Historically– death, serious injury or bureaucratic delays, kept recipients from going back. “By definition actions worthy of the Medal of Honor must come at grave risk of death or injury,” the Post reports. Living MOH recipients are very rare – there are only 80 of them right now.
Also, the approval process to receive the award now takes a lot longer. In Byers’ case it took more than three years. By the time most recipients are officially awarded the medal, they’ve left the battlefield and moved on to other things, outside the military. All 10 living MOH recipients before Byers left the military before, or soon after, their awards were approved.
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