National Security Desk / February 29, 2016

Navy SEAL to Receive Medal of Honor Today

“I plan to continue doing my job as normal and to continue being a SEAL.”

Navy SEAL Edward Byers wears a St. Michael the Archangel patch on his back. Before going into battle, the Roman Catholic always prays to the angel that leads God’s army in the book of Revelation for protection, drawing strength to be away from his wife and daughter. It was a prayer he most likely prayed before he ran through a darkened Afghan doorway where he knew a host of Taliban lay waiting. It was the night of Dec. 8, 2012, and SEAL Team Six had hiked four hours to get to this one-room hut, a place the U.S. military believed the Taliban was keeping captured U.S. citizen Dr. Dilip Joseph. Moments before, a Taliban guard discovered the rescue party as it was 25 meters away. As Petty Officer 1st Class Nicholas Checque dived through the six layers of blankets that made up the hut’s door, he was cut down by AK-47 fire. Byers followed, shot a man aiming a rifle at him, and tackled another man who was scrambling for a weapon in the corner. After realizing that he did not have Joseph, Byers fought the man, then jumped on top of Joseph, using his body as a shield while pinning a Taliban fighter to the wall by one hand. The rescue was successful.

It is for this action that the White House is awarding Byers the Medal of Honor at a ceremony today. He is the first member of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group to receive the nation’s highest medal for valor, and the first member of the Navy still living to receive the commendation since the Vietnam War. And as a member of the Special Forces, it’s difficult for him. “I’ve lived my entire career a very private life,” Byers said. “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.” That is the true mark of a hero: a willingness to pay the ultimate sacrifice, but the humility to do it again and again.

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