Defense

Biden awards Medal of Honor to three soldiers for bravery in Iraq, Afghanistan

President Biden
Associated Press/Susan Walsh

President Biden on Thursday awarded the Medal of Honor to three soldiers for their actions serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, including one who became the first Black service member to be given the Medal of Honor for actions since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Biden awarded the nation’s highest military honor to Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, and Master Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee.

“Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude today as we honor the unparalleled courage and commitment to duty and the indispensable, indisputable gallantry,” Biden said at a White House ceremony.

Cashe was given the award posthumously for his bravery in rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle in Iraq in 2005. He is the first Black service member to be given the award for actions since 9/11.

Cashe’s unit’s vehicle was attacked and disabled and caught fire near an enemy village. After getting out himself, Cashe began working to extract others from the vehicle. His uniform was soaked in gasoline and caught fire, and he sustained severe burns to his body.

Biden hailed Cashe as a “warrior who literally walked through fire for his troops.”

Plumlee, who accepted the award in person, was at Forward Operating Base Ghazni in Afghanistan.

Plumlee responded when an explosion at the base created a massive hole in its perimeter wall, which insurgents poured through. Plumlee fought off insurgents wielding rifles and wearing suicide vests, engaging them with only his pistol.

Plumlee’s honor required congressional intervention after the Army initially downgraded his nomination for the Medal of Honor to the Silver Star.

Biden said the recognition for Plumlee was overdue, adding that “no one will ever forget how you sprang into action when the enemy attacked our base.”

Celiz was also given the award posthumously for his efforts in Afghanistan to protect his fellow soldiers from enemy fire. He is credited with voluntarily exposing himself to machine gun and small arms fire as part of a mission to clear an area of enemy forces.

As a medical evacuation helicopter arrived, it came under heavy enemy fire. Celiz used his body as a shield to protect the rest of his team and allow the helicopter to lift off.

“In the face of extreme danger he placed the safety of his team and his crew above his own,” Biden said of Celiz.

Cashe’s and Celiz’s families were on hand to accept the award on their behalf.

Tags Afghanistan Alwyn Cashe Christopher Celiz Earl D. Plumlee Iraq Joe Biden Medal of Honor
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