President Obama awarded a Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr., a member of the Navy SEALs. Chief Byers was honored for his actions during a hostage rescue in Afghanistan in 2012. Photo Screengrab.
President Obama awarded Chief Byers the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony on Monday.
Edward C. Byers Jr., a senior chief special warfare operator, was the second Navy SEAL team member to enter a Taliban compound to rescue an American doctor being held hostage in eastern Afghanistan in December 2012.
“Today’s ceremony is truly unique,” Mr. Obama said during the ceremony in the packed East Room of the White House. “It’s a rare opportunity for the American people to get a glimpse of a special breed of warrior that so often serves in the shadows.”
Petty Officer First Class Nicolas Checque was the first to burst through the door. He was shot in the head by AK-47 fire attempting to enter the room where Dr. Joseph — the American hostage — was sleeping.
Chief Byers followed his teammate into the room and fought with a Taliban gunman who had been aiming an AK-47 at him. He shielded Dr. Joseph to protect him, according to the official citation given with the medal.
“While covering the hostage with his body, Chief Byers immobilized another guard with his bare hands and restrained the guard until a teammate could” kill him, the citation said.
When the operation was over, all the Taliban fighters lay dead.
The seal team arrived at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan after the mission. Chief Byers and others tried to revive Petty Officer Checque, but he was pronounced dead when they reached the base.
Edward C. Byers Jr., a senior chief special warfare operator, is the first member of SEAL Team 6 to receive the military’s most prestigious combat medal, for his actions that night.
Dr. Joseph was working for a nonprofit group based in Colorado that was building medical clinics in Afghanistan when he was captured in early December 2012. The operation to rescue him came days later, on Dec. 8.
Chief Byers paid homage to Petty Officer Checque and the others on the mission. He said, he plans to remain in the military and “continue doing my job in the Navy.”
Seal Team 6 is a classified special operations unit made famous for killing Osama bin Laden.