Alwyn Cashe & Two Others to Receive the Medal of Honor
December 12, 2021
On Thursday, December 16, 2021, President Joe Biden will present the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award, to Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz and Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee. Cashe and Celiz died as a result of the actions that led to their awards. Plumlee will receive the honor in person at the White House.
In September 2020, we originally wrote about the Pentagon’s recommendation of a posthumous MOH award for Cashe, click here to read the original article.
Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe
Officially crossing the 16th anniversary of his death in November, today, Alwyn Cashe will become the first Black recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cashe, a 3rd Infantry Division platoon sergeant, was on a nighttime patrol near Samarra, Iraq, on October 17, 2005, when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle struck a roadside bomb, quickly engulfing in flames. Cashe extracted himself from the vehicle, then went back for the driver. Though his fuel-soak uniform ignited and caused severe burns to his body, Cashe repeatedly entered the burning Bradley to pull his fellow soldiers to safety, not stopping until they all escaped.
Despite his body being covered with over 72% of second-and third-degree burns, Cashe ensured the other soldiers received medical care. When evacuation helicopters arrived, he refused to board until the others were treated. He was the last to board the helicopter, and he walked on – refusing to be carried on a stretcher, said Lt. Col. Leon Matthias, who was present that day.
Matthias oversaw the armored vehicle directly behind Cashe’s during that patrol in 2005. After the explosion, he focused on the back of the vehicle, counting the bodies as Cashe pulled them out.
Sadly, he died three weeks later on November 8, 2005 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. In total, one Iraqi interpreter and 10 American soldiers, including Cashe, were inside the Bradley. The interpreter, as well as Cashe and three other soldiers – Staff Sgt. George Alexander Jr., 34, Sgt. Michael Robertson, 28, and Spc. Darren Howe, 21 – died from their wounds.
We’re happy to finally see Alwyn Cashe receive the Medal of Honor, it is an award truly well-deserved.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz
Christopher Celiz led a special operations unit on July 12, 2018, to clear an area of enemy forces in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan. The unit compromised members of the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as well as members of partner forces.
Once reaching the area of their mission, they came under a large enemy attack. Celiz exposed himself to enemy fire to retrieve a “heavy weapons system” that allowed his unit to regain its position and move to a secure location. When a medical evacuation helicopter arrived to retrieve an injured soldier, the enemy had launched a heavy attack.
Celiz willingly put himself between the enemy fire and the team that loaded the injured person into the helicopter, using his body as a physical shield. He guarded the helicopter and its crew as they started to take off.
Running for cover, he was hit by enemy fire. Celiz motioned to the pilots to depart, rather than land to pick him up. According to the Army, his actions likely saved the life of the injured member of partner forces and prevented other injuries among his unit and aircrew.
Second Lieutenant David White recalled on that day, “I saw three rounds go by his back foot as he was running for cover, and he skipped like he had been hit. He looked up at the helicopter as he collapsed to his hands and knees, and I saw him raise his hand as he was looking up and wave them off, like ‘Don’t come back for me.’”
After that, Celiz collapsed onto his chest and made one last attempt to pull himself to cover before going unconscious, White said. He died of his injuries later, while on an evacuation flight.
Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee
Earl Plumlee will be the only living service member to receive the Medal of Honor today, and he said he’s accepting it on behalf of his Special Forces regiment and the entire U.S. Army.
Plumlee was at Forward Operating Base Ghazni in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, on Aug. 28, 2013, when it was attacked by enemy forces. At the time, he was a staff sergeant assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group.
A massive explosion caused a breach in the base’s perimeter wall, and 10 insurgents in Afghan National Army uniforms and suicide vests poured through the opening. According to the Army, Plumlee and five other special operations soldiers got into two vehicles and sped toward the explosion, intent on defending the base.
Plumlee left the vehicle and used his body to shield the driver from enemy fire. He ran toward the enemy, armed only with a pistol, and killed two insurgents. Killing one by firing into the insurgent’s suicide vest, causing it to detonate. Plumlee remains on active duty as part of the 3rd Battalion Special Forces Group (Airborne).