Dec 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Alwyn Cashe to become 1st Black service Medal of Honor recipient from war on terror

Photo of Joe Biden speaking and looking to his right

Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will award the Medal of Honor to Sgt. First Class Alwyn C. Cashe, who will become the first Black service member to receive the nation's highest medal for valor in combat for events during the war on terror.

Why it matters: Cashe will be honored alongside two other soldiers who displayed "conspicuous gallantry" while deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, the White House announced Friday.

  • The ceremony, which will take place on Dec. 16, honors soldiers who risked their lives "above and beyond the call of duty" in service of the United States.

Details: Cashe will receive the medal posthumously for rescuing his teammates from a vehicle engulfed in flames during a 2005 attack in Iraq.

  • Former President Donald Trump in December 2020 signed into law the annual defense policy bill, which included a provision that waived the five-year limit between the approval and the "extraordinary acts of valor" for Cashe and three others.
  • In each case, the secretary of Defense still had to approve and the president still had to authorize their receipt of the medal.

Master Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee, a Green Beret, originally received the Silver Star in 2015 for engaging insurgents wearing suicide vests without cover in order to clear a breach in the base’s perimeter wall in Afghanistan.

  • The lesser recognition sparked an investigation in which the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General looked into the decision-making process of the three-member board.
  • Defense Department top brass were also divided over the decision. Army Times reported in June 2016 that Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who went on to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Mark Milley, who would go on to replace Dunford, had supported the MOH title.
  • Meanwhile, former Army Secretary John McHugh and former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, backed the board's determination.

Sgt. First Class Christopher A. Celiz, an Army Ranger, will also receive the MOH for voluntarily exposing himself to Taliban fire in Afghanistan in 2018 in order to employ a heavy weapon system that would disrupt future attacks on Afghans.

  • He died from his wounds that day.
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