Edward C. Byers, Jr., a Navy Senior Chief, is being awarded the highest combat award and is believed to be the first living service member to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, The Washington Post reports.
Byers ran into the room, shot a Taliban fighter who was holding an automatic rifle to his head, then tackled another Taliban who was trying to get to another rifle across the room. It was too dark to see whether the person he had tackled was the American hostage or a Taliban, so he tried adjusting his night-vision goggles when suddenly the American hostage yelled out in English. Byers quickly killed the insurgent, then jumped in front of the American hostage to block him from gunfire. Byers then grabbed another enemy fighter by the throat and pinned him against the wall until another Navy Seal shot and killed the insurgent.
The Washington Post further reports that Byers, 36, will receive the Medal of Honor while serving with Seal Team 6, another name for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.
Byers spoke during an interview with the Pentagon on Friday.
“I’ve lived my entire career a very private life. We don’t talk about what we do, and this honor carries with it some obligations that I need to carry out. You know, you follow those through. But, I plan to continue doing my job as normal and to continue being a SEAL. It’s something I love and grew up wanting to be.”
During the hostage mission, the Navy Seals successfully extracted the Navy doctor, Dilip Joseph, from the Taliban. However, the Navy Seal who entered just before Byers was shot and killed, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque. Checque received the Navy cross, which is one step below the Medal of Honor, said the Navy officials.
“I liked everything about what they represented, or what I thought they represented. The difficult missions they take on, the secrecy around what they do, the Special Operations aspect, the cool gear, the good equipment.”
Byers has been enlisted since 1998, originally as a Navy Corpsman Medic. He entered SEAL school in 2002 and was assigned to his first SEAL team in 2004, according to the bio released by the Navy.
Byers explained Nicholas Checque as being “tough as nails,” according to The Washington Post.
“I was lucky. I made it out with very few scratches, and Nic Checque didn’t. He made the ultimate sacrifice. But there have been a lot of our brothers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and they died like warriors die. I would like to think he would do that all over again. Very few people can say they died doing something they love, and he’ll forever be remembered in the pages of history as being a truly great hero.”
WCNC announced that Byers has been deployed 11 times, nine of them being to Afghanistan or Iraq. Byers has recieved two Purple Hearts and five Bronze Stars with valor.
[Photo courtesy of the US Navy]