This is a day to express gratitude to America’s veterans, who have given so much to allow us to enjoy the blessings of liberty. Good news from Washington also inspires thoughts of an amazing soldier who is no longer with us. Alwyn Cashe died in Iraq in 2005 but he will no doubt be serving as an inspiration to Americans for generations to come. Dan Lamothe reports in the Washington Post:
The Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that clears the way for President Trump to award the nation’s highest award for valor in combat to Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who repeatedly entered a burning vehicle in Iraq to save six fellow soldiers and an interpreter from harm and died a few weeks later.
The legislation, passed by unanimous consent, waives the legal requirement that the Medal of Honor be awarded within five years of a service member’s acts of valor. Cashe has long been considered one of the war’s great American heroes and would be the first African American to receive the award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Former defense secretary Mark T. Esper supported the move in a letter to Congress in August after years of deliberations within the Army.
One naturally wonders why years of deliberations were required, given the events of an October day in 2005 in Samarra, Iraq. An improvised explosive device detonated under Sgt. Cashe’s Bradley fighting vehicle. According to the U.S. Army website:
The blast ignited the fuel cell on the vehicle causing fuel to spew everywhere. The vehicle came to a stop and immediately erupted in flames.
Sergeant First Class Cashe was initially slightly injured and drenched with fuel. Despite his condition, he bravely managed to get out of the gunner’s hatch, crawl down the BFV and assist the driver out of the driver’s hatch.
The driver had been burned and Sergeant First Class Cashe extinguished his flames. The following minutes were crucial. Six soldiers and a translator were in the back of the Bradley. Flames had engulfed the entire vehicle from the bottom and were coming out of every portal. The squad leader inside the vehicle managed to open the troop hatch door to help the soldiers escape.
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…
During all this and with severe burns, Sergeant First Class Cashe bravely continued to take control of the chaos… His injuries were the worst as he suffered from 2d and 3d degree burns over 72% of his body. Sergeant First Class Cashe’s heroic actions saved the lives of six of his beloved soldiers.
Weeks later, on Nov. 8, 2005, Cashe died at a military hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Given his astounding bravery and monumental sacrifices for his fellow soldiers, it may be hard to imagine why he did not receive the nation’s highest honor during the presidential administrations of George W. Bush or Barack Obama.
According to the Post’s Mr. Lamothe:
Cashe was initially approved for the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor in combat. His commanding officer, then-Lt. Col. Gary Brito, later said that he did not initially have a full understanding for what Cashe did and has sought an upgrade for years…
Cashe’s sister, Kasinal Cashe White, said… recently that she did not believe discrimination had a role in the Army’s failure to award the Medal of Honor sooner. She cited a conversation that she had with Brito, who also is Black, in 2007…
“What I feel is that the information did not get back in time,” she said.
White added that she “won’t allow anybody to make it a race thing.”
“He did what he did not because he was Black, but because he was a soldier and because he loved his men,” she said. “And I believe they loved him in return.”
Rest in peace, Alwyn Cashe.