COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Just before he gave the Medal of Honor to Alwyn Cashe’s widow, Tamara, President Joe Biden summed up the dog-faced soldier this way: “Alwyn Cashe was a soldier’s soldier. A warrior who literally walked through fire for his troops.”
More than 16 years after the heroic rescue of his soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Sgt First Class Alwyn Cashe posthumously received the military’s highest honor for valor on Thursday at a White House ceremony.
A lot of people from Cashe’s family to his former commanders including Lt. Gen. Gary Brito – a former Fort Benning commander – fought for 16 years for this day.
In the East Room of the White House, Cashe’s widow, Tamara, who lives here in Columbus, accepted the honor for her late husband.
Army Col. Jimmy Hathaway, a young captain in 2005, was the company commander of Cashe’s unit.
“When Tam got it, it was it almost put a smile on my face as sad as the surroundings are because every single kid from the first platoon to the Alpha Company was part of that,” Hathaway said.
Hathaway was there on the battle field when Cash was mortally wounded and then in the White House for the ceremony.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Martin Celestine was a close friend of Cashe’s. And he acknowledged the historical significance of the moment. Like Hathaway, Celestine attended the ceremony.
He becomes the first African American soldier to receive the Medal of Honor since Vietnam. And the only one so honored for heroic actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“When you talk about the army values, his heroism, the sacrifices that he made really has nothing to do with race or gender,” Celestine said. “It’s all about what came from within. So even though it’s not lost on me and he was the first, he really embodied the army values.”
Cashe was assigned to a Fort Benning unit deployed to Iraq when an IED struck the Bradley he and the team he commanded were traveling in.
It burst into flames. He was badly burned, his uniform drenched in fuel. Time and again, Cashe went back into that burning vehicle to rescue his soldiers and the driver.
He died three weeks later stateside of injuries suffered in the attack.
Here’s what President Biden said today: “The sergeant extracted himself and without hesitation turned back to the vehicle to help free the driver and extinguish the flames on the driver. In the process, Sgt. First Class Cashe’s uniform drenched in fuel caught fire causing severe burns. Patrol was still staking fire, but Cashe thought only of his fellow soldiers trapped in the troop compartment.”
Douglas Sterner, a Vietnam veteran, and military historian, recently told the Washington Post that Alwyn Cashe’s actions on Oct. 17th, 2005, were the most clear-cut case for the Medal of Honor he’s ever seen.
In addition to Sgt. First Class Cashe the president also awarded the medal to two other soldiers. Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, an Army Ranger assigned to 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Battalion in Savannah and Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee. Celiz, like Cashe, was awarded the medal posthumously.
Cashe becomes the second soldier this year with Columbus and Fort Benning ties to be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Biden. Retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett, a 95-year-old Columbus resident and Army Ranger, was awarded the medal in May for actions in Korea behind enemy lines in 1950.