1st Black Recipient of The Medal of Honor for Actions in Iraq and Afghanistan

This, like all stories of heroism above and beyond the call of duty, is inspiring. It is a story about a young man, a soldier, who, when hell broke loose all around him, did not flinch, did not hesitate to go into the center of that hell to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Sadly, his heroic act would eventuate in his own death. Such self-sacrifice is beyond any real human measure.

We are humbled in the face of such selflessness and courage. Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe’s actions in Iraq in 2005 met and exceeded the measure of normal heroism. For his actions, he would become the first Black recipient of the Medal of Honor for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Photo: YouTube/TODAY

The events of that day began when the Bradley fighting vehicle he and his team were riding in struck an IED. The explosion not only severely damaged the vehicle and caused multiple casualties, but also instantly caught the vehicle on fire. Cashe repeatedly went into the burning vehicle and dragged each of his team members, one by one, out of the fire to safety. He became severely burned in the process.

We all have an instinctual fear of fire, but add to that the fact that this Bradley fighting vehicle is full of gasoline and weapons and ammunition. The potential not only of the intensity of the fire but the possibility of an explosion would have had most of us getting far away from that burning vehicle as fast as possible.

Photo: YouTube/TODAY

But that was not the man that Sgt. Cashe was. He went into those flames, into the close quarters of that burning vehicle, moved by the suffering of his teammates and their immediate danger. He was there; he could not let them burn. He had to do something. Over and over again, he went back and retrieved his men one at a time. He saved many lives that day.

Cashe and the others were medevacked to medical care quickly. But, you see, the thing about burns is that it depends on how much of the body is burned and how deeply. It also depends on what happens to the burn victim’s lungs. Cashe’s burn injuries were extensive and too severe to survive. Sadly, Cashe would die from his injuries some three weeks after this incident.

Photo: YouTube/TODAY

Cashe was originally awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day, but when the details of what he did that day became known, a campaign by his team and others was undertaken to get that award upgraded to the Medal of Honor. That campaign was successful, making Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The second video included here will go into the events and actions of that day in much greater depth.

We honor the memory, the courage, and the heroic selflessness of 1st Sgt. Alwyn Cashe and thank him for showing us what these virtues look like in action. We thank him for his service, and we offer our respect and condolences to his family. We will never forget!

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