Army Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe will finally get his due.
On October 17, 2005, his Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle struck an improvised bomb and erupted in flames. Riding in the gunner’s position, Cashe was drenched in fuel, but only slightly injured.
He crawled down the gunner’s hatch and helped the driver, who was burned, escape. But there were still six soldiers inside the burning vehicle. The squad leader inside managed to open the hatch door and Cashe rushed back to the vehicle and began pulling out soldiers.
Even as he caught on fire, Cashe continued running back to the vehicle again and again to pull his soldiers out.
Cashe suffered from second and third degree burns on more than 70 percent of his body. He succumbed to his injuries on November 8, 2005, leaving behind his wife Andrea and son Andrew.
On Friday, three members of Congress announced the Trump administration has agreed that Cashe’s Silver Star should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.
The recognition comes after more than 15 years of fighting by his former battalion commander, fellow soldiers, veterans, and finally, members of Congress.
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), an Army Green Beret colonel, teamed up with fellow veteran Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R–TX), a former Navy SEAL, on legislation to upgrade Cashe’s Silver Star to a Medal of Honor.
They soon learned that Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) was also working on doing that. In an October 17, 2019, letter, they pushed Defense Secretary Mark Esper to review Cashe’s case.
They received a response last week. Esper said in an August 24, 2020, letter to them that, after reviewing their proposal, he agreed that Cashe’s Silver Star should be upgraded.
“What the guy did is just legendary. And I’ve known about the effort to get it upgraded from a Silver Star. In my mind, it’s just a no-brainer. It’s absolutely worthy,” Waltz told Breitbart News in a phone interview Friday.
“He didn’t just react once, twice, but three times, soaked in fuel oil, to set himself on fire to save his fellow soldier, I mean, it’s just the epitome of what the Medal of Honor is all about.”
It really gives me goosebumps even talking about it. Someone who literally allowed himself to be burned to death to save their brothers in arms. I honestly don’t even think a Medal of Honor is enough. I would love to see his family and his memory honored in that way. And the other thing that I find so incredible is that his son is following in his footsteps. I mean, that’s just truly a family of service and servant leaders.
Cashe’s son Andrew, who was just eight at the time of his father’s death, has decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and enlist in the Army after college.
The pending Medal of Honor is also significant in that Cashe would be the first Black service member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars to receive the Medal of Honor. However, Waltz said this award is not about Cashe’s race but his heroic deeds.
“In the foxhole, nobody cares honestly. It’s about mission, it’s about country, it’s about getting the job done. And it’s about taking care about your brothers and sisters to your left and your right,” Waltz said.
“And I can guarantee you, that IED didn’t see race or religion or socioeconomic background. The enemy’s bullets could care less. All they care about is that you’re American,” he said.
Since the five year statute of limitations for Medal of Honor awardees has passed since Cashe’s heroic act, Congress will first need to extend that timeframe for Cashe before it goes to President Donald Trump’s desk for a final decision.
Waltz said he, Crenshaw, and Murphy will try to add a provision to extend the timeframe into the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which is currently being worked out between the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.
“We’ll see how viable that is to do next week, but I think that’s the best path forward, because all it really is is extending the statute of limitations in this one-off case, but I think it’s a pretty exceptional case,” he said.
Waltz said Cashe’s willingness to sacrifice himself provides an example for why more Americans should volunteer for national service and why more veterans should serve in Congress.
“When you’re out there serving together, it becomes about mission and serving something bigger than yourself,” he said.