Navy SEAL to receive Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will award the nation’s highest award for military valor to a senior enlisted Navy SEAL for his actions during a 2012 raid in Afghanistan that freed an American civilian from captivity.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers will receive the Medal of Honor on Feb. 29, the White House announced Tuesday. He’ll be the 11th living servicemember to receive the award for actions in Afghanistan and only the third Navy sailor presented the medal since the 9/11 terror attacks.
The last sailor to receive the Medal of Honor was another Navy SEAL, Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, who in 2006 was posthumously awarded the medal for actions in Iraq.
Byers’ “courageous actions” occurred Dec. 8-9, 2012, according to a White House announcement. The White House did not provide specific details about his actions, and the Navy did not immediately respond to a request for more information. However, Navy SEALs from the highly secretive SEAL Team 6 took part in a raid Dec. 9, 2012, to free an American doctor from Taliban captors in the eastern Afghanistan mountains of Laghman province. Dr. Dilip Joseph had been captured outside Kabul on Dec. 5 and was rescued in the operation. The raid included a large firefight that left at least a handful of Taliban fighters dead as well as an American, 28-year-old Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque, whom the Pentagon said at the time had been assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit.
An unnamed defense official told USA Today that the SEAL’s actions left no doubt that he deserved the Medal of Honor.
“There’s no margin of doubt or possibility of error in awarding this honor,” the defense official familiar with the case 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.”
Byers, 36, is a native of Toledo, Ohio, who enlisted in the Navy about a year after graduating from Otesgo High School in Tontogany, Ohio, in June 1997, according to the White House.
A SEAL since 2003, Byers has served eight overseas deployments including seven combat tours. He’s a highly decorated operator who has been awarded at least seven medals for combat valor, including five Bronze Stars with “V” device. He’s also been awarded two Purple Hearts.
The Medal of Honor has only been awarded to five Navy SEALs. Three received the honor for actions in Vietnam before Monsoor in Iraq and Lt. Michael Murphy for actions in 2005 in Afghanistan.