The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday evening unanimously passed a bipartisan bill to allow for the posthumous awarding of the Medal of Honor to Army Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe for sacrificing his life in 2005 to save his fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle in Iraq.
Shortly before the bill passed, Cashe’s older sister, Kasinal Cashe White, thanked everyone involved in the 15-year-long effort to have her brother awarded the Medal of Honor during an online press conference.
“The family gives them our heartfelt gratitude and thanks. Everybody that has been on the path and remains on it has been faithful,” she said in response to Breitbart News.
“He’s my baby brother. He’s the last child born to my mother. She herself would be sitting here, but my mother expired in 2015. She was definitely part of this journey, but unfortunately, it was not God’s will that she see it to the end, but it is my desire to see it to fruition,” she added.
Cashe was 35 years old when he died saving six of his men from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Iraq on October 17, 2005.
His platoon had just left their base in Iraq when the vehicle he was in hit an improvised roadside bomb and erupted in flames. Only slightly injured, he pulled out the driver, who was burned, and extinguished the flames. After a soldier inside opened the hatch door in the back, Cashe rushed back and pulled six more men out, not stopping even after he caught fire. More than 70 percent of his body was covered in burns, and he later died of his wounds.
Before he succumbed to his injuries, he told Stars and Stripes, “I had made peace with God, but I didn’t know if my men had yet.”
After Cashe was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism, his then-battalion commander, Col. Gary Brito, fought to have it upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The five-year statute of limitations for the Medal of Honor since the heroic deed then passed. White said at the time, she was busy consoling her mother and trying to keep things together. After later researching, she found that her baby brother met the criteria for the Medal of Honor and began pursuing it.
White said Cashe was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters. “He was a baby, he was my baby, he was just the youngest…He was the last born, first to die.”
More than a dozen years later, when White thought she had exhausted all her options, that’s when Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), who represented the districts in which Cashe was born and raised, stepped in. Together, she and Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL), an Army Green Beret, and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a Navy SEAL veteran, pushed for Defense Secretary Mark Esper to review Cashe’s case. Esper just last month agreed that Cashe deserved the Medal of Honor but told them they would have to pass a law extending the statute of limitations first. Murphy, Waltz, and Crenshaw did just that.
“I was really inspired by his actions, and I wanted to find a way to honor him,” she added. “Alwyn’s a hero in the purist and most profound sense. What he did on that Iraq battlefield really takes your breath away.” Murphy has also passed a bill to get a post office in Oviedo named after Cashe.
Veterans who pushed to get the bill passed in the House were elated.
“This means the righting of a wrong that is way overdue. Alwyn is a legend among Infantry and all of those in combat arms. His story of putting himself in mortal danger knowing that his men came first. It should be sang from the rooftops as the way a true [non-commissioned officer] should behave. Your people, your men always, I mean always come first,” said Army veteran Chip Spoonts.
“It means a f**king lot,” said one Army Special Forces soldier who wished to remain on background. “A lot of vets have put in a lot of work.”
“Duty, Honor, Country” — those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. We all have heard these famous words. SFC Alwyn Cashe lived it to the end. Grateful that such men have lived,” said another Army veteran and chief operating officer of Stocking Mill Coffee who wished to be identified only as Eddie L.
He is now working with the Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek to get a mural of Cashe and a street named after him in his hometown.
“SFC Cashe exemplified selfless service and the Mission First, Men Always mantra. It is unimaginable to envision entering an inferno while soaked with fuel — not once, not twice, but multiple times in total disregard for his own safety,” said former Army Ranger Walt Niziolek.
“This instinctive and incredibly brave series of acts can only be explained by a true love and respect for his men and an indomitable will. His sacrifice will not be forgotten and needs to be honored by the award of our great country’s highest honor. His name is Alwyn Cashe!” he said.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where it will need to be passed before it becomes law but where there are only a limited number of working days before the Senate leaves for recess in October.
Murphy said she, Waltz, and Crenshaw have already begun outreach to senators in both parties in an effort to usher the bill through before recess. She said the backup plan is that it gets attached to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which will be passed in both the House and Senate sometime in November or December.
But, she said, “We really want to try to get this done as swiftly as possible because Kasinal and her family have been fighting for this for years and they’ve really waited long enough.”
Murphy also thanked her Republican colleagues for pushing the bill forward.
“I couldn’t have had better partners than Mr. Waltz and Mr. Crenshaw. This has been a totally bipartisan effort and they both have such great credibility given their own military backgrounds in the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALS,” she said.
“We will not stop fighting until we get this done. I think we owe that to Alwyn’s memory, we owe it to all the people like Kasinal who have put their hearts and souls into this and she’s been a great partner in this journey.”
White called them a “Godsend and answer to a prayer.”
She also thanked Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva for writing her brother’s name on the back of his helmet earlier this month. Villanueva caught some flak for not displaying the name of Antwon Rose Jr. like his teammates, but he also won praise from Cashe fans.
“I think that he did what he did because Army recognizes Army and he felt like it needed to be said, and I thank him for that, because what I gathered from that through getting emails and [Facebook] friend requests, Pittsburgh knows my brother’s story and I’m thankful for that,” she said.
Although Cashe would be the first black soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor in the post-9/11 wars, White said this award has nothing to do with race.
“I won’t allow anybody to make it a race thing because he did what he did not because he was black,” she said. “He did what he did because he was a soldier and loved his men. And they loved him in return. They reciprocated that.”