U.S. Navy SEAL Edward Byers is the first living SEAL since the Vietnam War to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in rescuing an American hostage from Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan in 2012.
It is believed that Byers is “the first service member to ever receive the Medal of Honor for actions while serving with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as SEAL Team 6,” although defense officials have declined to confirm this speculation.
The Congressional Medal of Honor “is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States,” according to their website.
“Ed is defined by a deep sense of humility, he doesn’t seek the spotlight, in fact he shuns it. He’s the consummate quiet professional,” said President Obama. “Today’s ceremony is truly unique — a rare opportunity for the American people to get a glimpse of a special breed of warrior that so often serves in the shadows.
While the specifics of the operation are classified, details of the hostage rescue can be read in CNN’s summary of the events, including the death of Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque, another member of SEAL Team 6.
After Obama paid tribute Checque for his heroic actions, CNN reports that Byers praised his fallen comrade.
“If it wasn’t for that team, I wouldn’t be standing here today. Specifically for me, my teammate, brother, friend, Nic Checque, the award is truly his. He was an American hero. He was the hero of that operation. He was killed during that operation. He died a warrior. He died to bring back another American. I believe our nation owes him a debt of gratitude. He lived his life as a warrior, and he carried out the toughest missions selflessly and fearlessly. He made the ultimate sacrifice that day,” Byers said.
Obama stated Checque was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism, and that he’s one of 70 members of the Naval Special Warfare community, 55 of them SEALs, who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11.
According to the Washington Post, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Byers has also been awarded two Purple Hearts (for being wounded in combat) and five Bronze Stars with V device, a lower-level yet still prestigious award recognizing heroism.
When asked what he’s done since the 2012 operation, he replied “whatever the nation has asked. You earn your Trident every day, and you’re only as good as that day. You don’t rest on what you did in the past. You keep driving forward.”