Alwyn Cashe becomes first Black service member to receive Medal of Honor since 9/11

Cashe’s body was on fire in 2005 when he rescued fellow soldiers from a burning armored vehicle during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The U.S. Army infantryman who died less than a month after saving his fellow soldiers from a burning armored vehicle during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 on Thursday became the first Black military service member to receive the Medal of Honor since 9/11.

Sgt. First Class Alwyn Cashe was literally on fire while being shot at by enemy fighters on Oct. 17, 2005 when he rescued six U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter from their burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle after it was hit with an I.E.D. that caused it to burst into flames, according to U.S. Army officials.

Portrait of then-Staff Sgt. Alwyn C. Cashe (Credit: U.S. Army)

Cashe received burns on nearly 72 percent of his body during the attack, which took place at night near Samarra, Iraq, according to a U.S. Army report. He succumbed to his injuries on Nov. 8, 2005 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio at the age of 35.

Fuel from the damaged vehicle spilled onto Cashe’s body, which ignited after he emerged from the wreckage. Witnesses said he remained ablaze as he made return trips to pull his fellow soldiers from the vehicle and carried them to safety. Cashe refused to board arriving medical evacuation helicopters until all his brothers in arms were safely aboard.

“Again and again, he continues to go back, soaked in fuel, on fire, with no regard for his own safety to get everybody out,” Cashe’s Company Commander Col. Jimmy Hathaway told Army officials.

His name is Alwyn Cashe. pic.twitter.com/4M1mLTeHzW

— Canadian Forces in 🇺🇸 (@CAFinUS) December 16, 2021

President Joe Biden presented the Medal of Honor to Cashe’s widow, Tamara Cashe, during a Thursday afternoon ceremony at the White House.

Biden also gave a Medal of Honor to the late Army Ranger Christopher Celiz, who died at age 32 during a 2018 firefight in Afghanistan. Special Forces soldier Earl Plumlee accepted his Medal of Honor from Biden in person on Thursday for fighting off Taliban suicide bombers in Afghanistan in 2013.

“Today, we honor three outstanding soldiers, whose actions embody the highest ideals of selfless service,” Biden told attendees at the ceremony. “We also remember the high price our military members and their families are willing to pay on behalf of our nation.”

Then-1st Lt. James “Jimmy” Ryan, left, poses with Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe during their deployment to Forward Operating Base McKenzie in Samarra, Iraq. (Courtesy photo provided by Maj. James Ryan (Ret.))

The U.S. Army said Cashe grew up poor in Oviedo, Florida before joining the military after graduating from high school. Cashe is survived by his daughters, Lajada and Alexis; his son, Andrew, as well as his widow.

Cashe’s sister, Kasinal Cashe-White, described her late brother as “very rambunctious,” a “daredevil” and “a good kid all around,” according to ABC News. She told the network receiving the Medal of Honor “means everything” to his family.

“We lost our brother. He can’t be replaced,” Cashe-White said. “But this award means that his name and his legacy will go down in history.”

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