In November, the U.S. Senate, in a bipartisan bill (H.R. 8276) introduced by U.S. Representatives Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and Michael Waltz (R-FL), authorized the president to posthumously award the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe for his actions in Iraq on October 17, 2005.
The Legislative Work Has Been Done
The bill waived a federal law that generally requires a Medal of Honor to be awarded within five years of the actions that form the basis for the award. Then-President Trump, in December 2020, signed legislation that waived the five-year limit for awarding the military’s highest medal for valor in combat.
However, Trump’s White House team, coordinating on the official announcement for the Medal of Honor, determined that a potential ceremony wouldn’t come until after the inauguration in January 2021.
The change of administration means that although the bill has passed, new paperwork authorizing the president to sign off on the bill has to be generated. The Biden administration has now been in office for more than 100 days. If there is any piece of legislation left over from the Trump administration that unabashedly must be followed through, it is the bipartisan Medal of Honor push for SFC Alwyn Cashe.
SFC Alwyn Cashe’s Actions Are Deserving of a Medal of Honor
On October 17, 2005, U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class (SFC) Alwyn C. Cashe, was on a combat patrol in Samarra, Iraq. As an Alpha Company platoon sergeant from Forward Operating Base McKenzie, adjacent to Diyala, SFC Cashe was in the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicle when it struck a roadside Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The vehicle’s fuel cell ruptured, instantly covering Cashe in fuel. His vehicle came to a stop and immediately erupted in flames. While under small arms fire, SFC Cashe managed to escape through the Bradley gunner’s hatch and assisted the driver with his egress. The flames gripped Cashe’s fuel-soaked uniform and quickly spread all over his body.
Despite the terrible pain, Sergeant First Class Cashe placed the injured driver on the ground and extinguished the driver’s burning clothes. He returned to the burning vehicle to retrieve another burning soldier. All the while, he was still on fire. He then moved to the back of the Bradley to pull more of his soldiers from the flames.
Sgt. Gary Mills was on fire, his hands so badly burned that he couldn’t open the rear troop door to free himself and the other soldiers trapped inside the flaming vehicle. Cashe opened the door from outside grabbing Mills and yanking him to safety. Within seconds, Cashe ran back to the flames and crawled into the vehicle to haul out the platoon’s critically burned medic.
SFC Alwyn Cashe kept going back into that vehicle even after his uniform had ignited, and flames had severely burned most of his body. He got all of his soldiers out.
“He Just Kept Saying, ‘I’m Good, I’m Good. Take Care of My Guys”
When Cashe arrived at the U.S. Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad Air Base in Iraq, he was still fully conscious. Alisha Turner, then an Air Force medic, was part of the team that treated Cashe and three of his wounded comrades. Cashe, she remembered, was the fourth casualty through the door. He was burned badly. The remains of his uniform had melted to his skin. Turner’s team rushed Cashe into the ER, where he started fighting to get off the gurney. “He just kept saying, ‘I’m good, I’m good, take care of my guys,’ Turner said. “He wanted us to focus on everyone else. It was as if they were his children.”
Cashe died a few weeks later on November 8 at the Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas. At the time, he was awarded a Silver Star Medal. He was 35 years old.
Lt. Gen. William G. Webster, Cashe’s division commander, wrote: “The pain he suffered must have been unimaginable, and yet he continued to suffer in the name of saving others. I cannot remember a story that is its equal.”
Kasinal Cashe White, the sergeant’s sister, recalled to news media that she stayed at her brother’s bedside while he was in the hospital. And the first thing he asked when he was able to speak was, “How are my boys?” He then broke down in tears, saying he “couldn’t get to them fast enough.”
There have been six Medals of Honor awarded for the Iraq War, all of them posthumously. Eighteen Medals of Honor have awarded for the fighting in Afghanistan. If SFC Cashe is awarded the Medal of Honor, he would be the first black soldier to receive the award in either the Iraq or Afghanistan war.
President Biden needs to act upon this ASAP and award the Medal of Honor to SFC Alwyn Cashe’s family.