President Obama will present the Medal of Honor to a Navy SEAL for his role in a dramatic nighttime raid of a Taliban compound that led to the rescue of an American doctor in Afghanistan in 2012, USA TODAY has learned.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, a 36-year-old member of SEAL Team Six, will be presented the nation’s highest military honor in a ceremony in the White House. Byers, 36, was part of an elite special forces operation that rescued an American doctor who had been kidnapped for ransom by Taliban fighters while trying to establish medical clinics in the war-torn country.
Byers’ actions were so clearly beyond expectation, even for a Navy SEAL, that the Navy had no hesitation in nominating him for the Medal of Honor, according to a Defense official familiar with his case but not authorized to speak publicly about it.
“There’s no margin of doubt or possibility of error in awarding this honor,” the Defense official said. “His actions were so conspicuous in terms of bravery and self-sacrifice that they clearly distinguished him to be worthy of the award, including risk of his own life.”
But even with the announcement of his Medal of Honor, much about the mission — and Byers’ role in it — remains secret. While the White House usually gives a much more detailed account of what a service member has done to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Byers commendation cites only “his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan, December 8-9, 2012.”
It was sometime after midnight on the 9th that Dr. Dilip Joseph — the medical director for the faith-based nonprofit Morningstar Development going into his fifth day of captivity by ransom-seeking Taliban fighters — heard dogs barking and sheep bleating outside the small, stone-and-mud shack where he was held in the mountains east of Kabul.
Two of his captors went out to investigate, but came back and conferred quietly, evidently seeing nothing outside.
Joseph had a runny nose, and was trying to clear it with a well-used handkerchief quietly, so as not to offend Afghan sensibilities about blowing one’s nose in public. He was on the edge of sleep when he heard the first gunshots, he recounted in a 2014 book, Kidnapped by the Taliban: A Story of Terror, Hope, and Rescue by SEAL Team Six.
“Is Dilip Joseph here?” shouted one of the heavily armed men, wearing night-vision goggles and speaking English. When Joseph identified himself, one of the SEALs — Joseph doesn’t know for sure — immediately laid down on top of him to protect him from the fighting, asking about his welfare. Amid the gunfire, the SEAL calmly asked if he had been fed, if he could walk, and if he had been mistreated.
Five Taliban fighters were killed. One Navy SEAL — the first one in the door, who the others called Nic — had been shot in the forehead.
As they waited for a helicopter 12 minutes out, the SEALs protected Joseph by “sandwiching” him between two team members. The one in front of him kept calling to the one behind him, named “Ed,” the only other name he heard that night or since. That man, he now knows for the first time, is Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers.
“What are you doing?” asked the one in front.
“Praying for Nic,” said the one named Ed. “Praying that he’ll be O.K.”
Later, Joseph learned 28-year-old Petty Officer 1st class Nicolas Checque of Monroeville, Pa. — had been killed.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Gregory Korte and Tom Vanden Brook