Today, President Barack Obama awarded Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Eric Byers the Medal of Honor. It’s the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat. Byers was a part of the Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly known SEAL Team Six. In December, 2012, NATO commanders believed Dr. Dilip Joseph and two of other staff members for the international aid group, Morning Star, were in imminent danger.
Armed smugglers kidnapped Dr. Dilip Joseph and two other staffers on their return home from a rural medical clinic in the eastern Kabul province. Tribal leader Malik Samad and district Chief Mohammad Haqbeen told CNN that Joseph, an American doctor, and an Afghan doctor were abducted by smugglers near Jegdalek in the Sarobi district.
Morning Star begin immediate negotiations for their return. The Afghan doctor’s family paid $12,000 for his return. Morning Star denies paying any ransom for its staffer’s return, and the raid to free Joseph came 11 hours after the Afghani release.
SEAL Team Six was dispatched for Joseph’s rescue. He had been held captive for about four days at that point. According the Tribune News, a guard spotted Byers’ team when it neared the building. After Byers ripped the curtains from the doorway, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque pushed his way inside and was immediately shot.
Byers rushed in after him and engaged a guard in a firefight, and managed to tackle another guard, subduing him with “hand-to-hand combat.” When the other rescue team members asked Joseph to identify himself, Byers heard an unknown voice speaking English and “immediately leaped across the room and selflessly flung his body on top the American hostage, shielding him from the continued rounds being fired across the room,” an unclassified the report of the mission revealed, according to CNN.
As he shielded the hostage from gunfire, he engaged another insurgent until his team was able to kill the enemy guard. After successfully extracting the hostage, Byers, a certified paramedic, performed CPR during the 40 minute flight to Bagram Air Base. However, Checque succumbed to his wounds.
In an interview, Byers remembered his fallen comrade as he prepared to receive the Medal of Honor from President Obama.
“Nick embodied the essence of being an American hero, he will forever be in the pages of history for the sacrifices he made,” Byers recollected.
“He gave his life for his fellow Americans, and he and his teammates remind us once more of the selfless service that allows our nation to stay strong, safe and free,” President Barack Obama said of Petty Officer 1st Class Checque, 28, of Monroeville, Pennsylvania.
Obama paid homage to Checque before bestowing the Medal of Honor upon Eric Byers, who demonstrated “selfless courage” in bringing Joseph home and trying to save the life of Petty Officer Checque.
President Barack Obama approved his receipt of the Medal of Honor, noting only five other Navy SEALs had received the honor before Byers. He is one of eleven living service members to receive a Medal of Honor.
“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,” Obama said during the White House ceremony. “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.”
Dr. Dilip Joseph, the American doctor, gave his support of Byers. He thanked him from giving him a second chance at life.
Eric Byers, an Ohio native, joined the Navy in 1998 as a corpsman and has been assigned to various SEAL teams. He completed seven tours, received the Bronze Star with valor, and two Purple Hearts. He was joined by his family at the White House as he added the highest honor, the Medal of Honor, to his repertoire.
[Photo by AP Images]