President Donald Trump has signed a bipartisan bill which clears the way for US Army Sgt Alwyn Cashe to posthumously receive the nation’s highest military honor.
Cashe had previously been awarded the Silver Star for Valor. Many US veterans believed that Cashe’s actions deserved the Medal of Honor since they occurred after being attacked in Iraq. This qualified the incident as active combat and made it eligible for the Medal of Honor.
The story gained popularity when NFL player and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva wore Cashe’s name on the back of his helmet during the first game of the season this year. An estimated 10.8 million viewers saw that game and learned about Cashe’s actions.
US Representatives Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla), Michael Waltz (R-Fla) and Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex) introduced the bill authorizing the Medal of Honor for Cashe just two days after that game. The bill unanimously passed the Senate last month and was given to the president for his signature last week.
With the president’s signature now on the bill, the Department of Defense is now cleared to formally recommend that the president award the Medal of Honor to Cashe. The president is the only one authorized to present the award.
In 2005, Cashe rescued several men from a burning vehicle in Iraq after it had been attacked by an explosive device. Cashe repeatedly entered the burning vehicle to pull his men to safety despite receiving second and third degree burns over three-quarters of his body.
According to Leo Shane III, witnesses described Alwyn Cashe returning time and time again to the burning vehicle even his own uniform was burning and his body armor was melting from the heat.
Villanueva said that his decision to honor Cashe was a personal one because of the effort among veterans to get Cashe the Medal of Honor. He said that the team’s head coach, Mike Tomlin, had approved of his decision.
But the decision caused some controversy. When the NFL announced that players would be allowed to wear the name of someone who was the victim of police brutality or a phrase that was associated with the protest movement regarding such brutality the Pittsburgh Steelers team web site published a story that the entire team would be wearing the name of Antwon Rose, Jr. Villanueva was the only player wearing a different name on his helmet.
Rose was killed by a Pittsburgh police officer while running away on foot. He had been in a vehicle that was involved in a drive-by shooting just minutes before he was killed. Many saw the incident as another example of police officers using excessive force against a black man. The officer who killed Rose, Michael Rosfield, shot Rose three times in the back. Rosfield was cleared of wrongdoing by a jury.
Rose’s mother was initially critical of Villanueva’s decision to wear a different name. She has since deleted the social media post in which she criticized the Steeler player for not wearing her son’s name on his helmet as the rest of his team was doing.
Villanueva is the starting left tackle for the Steelers. He is in his sixth season in the NFL.
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He was 35 years old when he died after his heroic actions.