A Hero’s Family is Forced to Wait

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This column was originally published at Townhall.com on April 12, 2021.

SFC Alwyn Cashe was an American hero and deserves to be treated like one. A soldier from Oviedo, Florida, Cashe risked his life so that others might live. He delayed his own medical treatment to put the interests of his men ahead of his own. A recent, unanimous act of Congress declared him deserving of our nation’s highest recognition for valor. Now, it is long past time for his family to be invited to the White House to accept the Medal of Honor that has been posthumously authorized for SFC Alwyn Cashe.

Two weeks ago, on National Medal of Honor Day, we celebrated the bravest of the brave who intentionally risked their lives to save another. Alwyn Cashe should have been among them. Nobody who is familiar with his story disputes his inclusion in this honored group of heroes. He never hesitated when one of his soldiers needed help, but his official recognition as a hero has taken too long and his family continues to wait for the final honor he deserves.

On the evening of October 17, 2005, SFC Alwyn Cashe and his unit were on a mission to clear roadways in Daliaya, Iraq. Cashe was the gunner in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that ran over a bomb and triggered an explosion. The detonation ruptured the fuel cell, spilling petrol and igniting a fire that quickly engulfed the Bradley. Cashe was injured in the blast and his uniform soon became soaked in fuel.

Despite this, he managed to escape the gunner’s hatch. He made his way to the front where he pulled the driver from the wreckage and smothered the flames that were burning his friend. Other soldiers remained in the vehicle, and though flames were everywhere, Cashe returned to the Bradley to retrieve his men.

It was a heroic act for which he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. His citation reads in part:

“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. 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 suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on nearly 75 percent of his body. He was medevac’d and taken to the world class burn center at Brooke Army Medical Center. But even the best medical teams couldn’t save him; the damage was too severe. Three weeks after the incident, on November 8, 2005, Alwyn Cashe succumbed to his injuries.

Before he died, Cashe’s family inquired of his actions. “I had made peace with my God,” Cashe explained, “but I didn’t know if my men had yet.”

Fifteen years later, the effort to upgrade his Silver Star to the Medal of Honor has seen progress but has still not resulted in a White House ceremony.

By law, the Medal of Honor must be awarded within five years of the date of the incident and meet strict evidentiary standards. In Cashe’s case, the soldiers he rescued could not immediately provide witness testimony due to their injuries. And until they told their stories, investigators didn’t realize the torrent of enemy fire to which Cashe exposed himself, in addition to the flames that consumed his uniform.

As evidence mounted, and the full extent of Cashe’s heroism became known, Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Mike Waltz, and Dan Crenshaw sponsored legislation to waive the five-year deadline for Cashe and authorize the President to award him the Medal of Honor.

The legislation had the blessing of then Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and was later endorsed by acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller. It sailed through the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Trump on December 4, 2020. The presidential transition, and events of January 6, 2021, delayed a White House ceremony.

President Biden is nearing 100 days in office. On some fronts, he has moved with lightning speed. But not in the case of Alwyn Cashe. His ceremony needs to be prioritized and the nation needs to hear his story. The President should explain his valiant service and selfless sacrifice so that we may, in a moment of national unity, thank God for giving us men like this.

“Heroism,” it has been said, “is endurance for one moment more.” Alwyn Cashe has already proven this to be true. Don’t make him or his family wait any longer.

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