A groundswell of military veterans are calling upon Congress to pass a bill to allow the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who sacrificed his life to save his fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle in Iraq in 2005.
However, Congress only has limited number of working days left this year to pass the bill before it could be left stranded for months, if not longer.
Veterans say Cashe’s award is long overdue and have begun a campaign pressuring lawmakers to get it done before they leave for recess in a week.
Last week, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, raised national awareness by writing Cashe’s name on the back of his helmet. While his action angered some, it fueled the determination of veterans fighting to fully recognize Cashe for his actions.
On October 17, 2005, at approximately 7:20 p.m. the 1st Platoon of Alpha Company, 1-15 Infantry, left Forward Operating Base Mackenzie in Daliaya, Iraq. Cashe, 35, was in the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicle when it struck an improvised roadside bomb.
The blast ignited the vehicle’s fuel cell, causing fuel to spew. The vehicle stopped and then erupted in flames.
Cashe, who was in the gunner’s position at the time, was only slightly injured but drenched in fuel. He crawled down into the vehicle and helped the driver, who was on fire, escape. Cashe extinguished the flames and went back for six more soldiers and a translator.
The squad leader had managed to open the vehicle’s hatch door, and Cashe rushed to the back of the vehicle, pulling out soldiers despite the flames. He continued, even after his fuel-soaked uniform caught on fire and spread all over his body.
In the end, Cashe saved six lives. His injuries were the worst, suffering second and third degree burns over 72 percent of his body. He died from his injuries on November 12, 2005.
Before he died, he told Stars and Stripes that what drove him, even after he caught on fire, was, “I had made peace with God, but I didn’t know if my men had yet.”
Cashe was awarded the Silver Star for his actions, but his fellow soldiers, veterans, and lawmakers have pushed the Pentagon to upgrade it to the Medal of Honor.
In May 2011, Cashe’s former battalion commander, now-Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, petitioned the Army to upgrade the medal to no avail. In 2014, then-Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a Marine veteran, wrote a letter to then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to review Cashe’s case.
However, last year, Army Green Beret Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), Navy SEAL veteran Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) — whose district Cashe was from, wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper to consider upgrading Cashe’s award.
They wrote on October 17, 2020, exactly 15 years after Cashe’s heroic deed:
We write to respectfully request that you carefully consider the case of Sergeant First Class Alwyn Crendall Cashe, who earned the Silver Star for his actions in Iraq on October 17, 2005. SFC Cashe saved the lives of multiple soldiers but suffered severe burns in the process and ultimately died from those burns. SFC Cashe has become something of a legend in military circles, the object of profound respect and even reverence,” wrote Waltz, Crenshaw and Murphy in their letter.
Last month, Esper notified them that he had reviewed Cashe’s case and agreed that he deserved the Medal of Honor. He told them that since the five-year statutory limit for Medal of Honor awardees had passed since Cashe’s heroic act, Congress would first need to extend that limit before he could be awarded the medal.
Murphy, Waltz, and Crenshaw this week introduced a bill that would extend that limit and allow the award to get to the president’s desk.
However, House members only have eight working days left before they go on October recess. The Senate has 13 working days left before the recess but has to wait until the House passes the bill first.
Murphy’s Communications Director Jonathan Uriate said in an email statement, “We are optimistic that the bill will soon clear the House.”
Sources tell Breitbart News that the bill could pass in the House as early as next week.
It would then be sent over to the Senate, where its fate is up to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and senators could pass it by unanimous consent in the roughly ten working days they have left before recess.
Veterans are determined to see that it happens and, in addition to calling members of Congress, are circulating a petition that has almost 35,000 names.
“Sergeant Cashe, under extraordinary circumstances, sacrificed his life to save his fellow soldiers, true to the soldier’s creed to the very end,” Waltz said in a statement Wednesday. “Cashe’s actions are deserving of the Medal of Honor. He is the very definition of an American hero – and I’m proud to work with my colleagues on this legislation to honor him.”
Murphy, who pushed successfully to honor Cashe with a federal building in her district, said, “For well over a decade, there has been a painstaking effort by SFC Cashe’s family, 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.”
Crenshaw added, “He is deserving of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for bravery on the battlefield and I’m proud to work with my colleagues to make sure that happens.”