Dec. 17 (UPI) — President Joe Biden presented the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor, to three U.S. Army soldiers on Thursday — two posthumously — for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Biden presented the awards to Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee and representatives on behalf of Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, both of whom died in battle.
“Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude today as we honor unparalleled courage, commitment to duty and indisputable gallantry,” Biden said. “It is just hard to explain where the soldiers got the courage they got.
“Each of you know what it is to stare down danger and summon strength in the face of a moment of trial. We’re grateful for all that you three have done.”
Cashe died while helping to save six soldiers from a burning vehicle that came under enemy fire in Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005.
While in Samarra, Iraq, his vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire, which set it aflame.
Cashe sustained burns as he pulled other soldiers from the vehicle, and ultimately died on Nov. 8, 2005, at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. He was also posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions.
Celiz exposed himself to enemy fire as he led a special-purpose unit in the Pakita province of Afghanistan on July 12, 2018, as he secured a heavy weapon system and provided his unit time to reach cover.
He then decided to use his body to shield his team, taking on enemy machine-gun fire, as they carried an injured member to a medical evacuation helicopter. Officials say that he told that chopper to leave, rather than have it ferry him to safety.
Celiz ultimately died of injuries he received.
The military says Plumlee engaged insurgents who attempted to invade Forward Operating Base Ghazni in Afghanistan in August 2013.
He responded to an explosion that caused a breach in the base’s perimeter wall, where 10 armed insurgents wearing suicide vests entered the base.
While traveling in a truck moving toward the attack point with three injured soldiers, Plumlee used his body to shield the driver from attack.
Outmanned and armed only with a pistol, Plumlee advanced on the enemy fighters, killing one with a grenade and detonating another’s suicide vest while avoiding heavy fire.
Despite sustaining an injury to his back, he ran through insurgent fire to carry an injured soldier to safety.
“It’s just my nature,” Plumlee said of his actions, saying the honor should recognize the efforts of the group. “I’m not used to being singled out for anything positive or negative. Generally, the team you’re involved in gets those kinds of accolades. I’m still fairly uncomfortable with it.”