Sergeant Alwyn Cashe gave his life in service to his country during the Iraq War in 2005. On October 17th of that year he was traveling in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that took the full force of an improvised explosive device.
The vehicle caught fire immediately and Cashe, who was only slightly injured managed to get out of the vehicle straightaway, helping the driver to safety. However, he was more concerned with the situation a half dozen of his team were in.
When one man managed to force open the rear hatch, without showing any concern for his own survival, Cashe climbed back into the burning vehicle to rescue them. During his efforts he became soaked in fuel and caught fire himself.
He succeeded in getting all six to safety, and an interpreter, in three forays back into the inferno, while under enemy fire, dragging them through the flames.
‘As we were fighting the fight and clearing the scene, he wouldn’t leave,’ said Major Jimmy Hathaway in 2014, ‘He wanted to make sure all of his guys were out first even though he was burned over most of his body. He was still more concerned about his guys getting out than he was.’
Major Hathaway was Cashe’s commanding officer with A Company 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Sergeant Alwyn Cashe was taken to hospital, but his injuries were grave, more than 70% of his body had been burned, and he passed away a few weeks later on the 8th November. He was thirty-five years old.
Explaining his actions, he said, ‘I had made peace with God, but I didn’t know if my men had yet.’
For his heroic actions Cashe was awarded the Silver Star, but many felt that fell short and a campaign started to award the Medal of Honor. Now it seems that support for the award has reached the office of the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper who has said he agreed with the argument put forward.
In a letter dated the 24th August 2020 Esper confirmed that he had reviewed the Sergeant’s case and, although he was in favour, the decision to approve the time waiver lay with Congress, and the final decision to award the Medal of Honor would rest with the President, the official Commander in Chief.
Representatives in Congress, Democrat Stephanie Murphy, and former Green Beret, Republican Michael Waltz, both from Florida, and Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy Seal, brought the legislation, which passed unanimously, to the House that removes the five year limitation that currently exists, opening the way for the posthumous award, and possibly help other campaigners.
Rep. Murphy released a statement that recognised the ‘painstaking effort’ by Sergeant Cashe’s family and friends, and former comrades, ‘to have his Silver Star upgraded to the Medal of Honor, which is clearly justified by the facts of this case.’ The campaign has been running for well over a decade.
Rep. Murphy described the five-year limitation as a ‘technical obstacle’ and was ‘thrilled’ that it had been removed so that, ‘this incredible soldier [can receive] the recognition he earned.’
Along with the Bill, all three Representatives confirmed they had been working closely with the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in order to smooth the passage of the new law and facilitate the award as soon as 2021.
The Bill has a number of precedents with a waiver granted by Congress in 2017 to review all military valour awards presented in conflicts post 9-11 which expired in December 2019.
Cashe’s older sister, Kasinal White said, ‘The family gives them our heartfelt gratitude and thanks. Everybody that has been on the path and remains on it has been faithful.’
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Army veteran Chip Spoonts said, ‘Alwyn is a legend among Infantry and all of those in combat arms.’