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Medal of Honor awarded to Black soldier for first time since Sept. 11 attacks

Alwyn Cashe
Posted at 12:15 PM, Dec 16, 2021

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Honor Thursday to three U.S. soldiers who fought in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of the recipients, Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, is the first Black soldier to receive the award since the Vietnam War.

Cashe was 35 when he suffered fatal injuries in Iraq while rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle in 2005.

During Thursday's ceremony, Biden noted Cashe, despite suffering severe burns, "pushed his own pain aside and returned to the vehicle" six times to save fellow soldiers. Biden called Cashe a "soldier's soldier."

Cashe was awarded the Silver Star in 2009, though many of his fellow soldiers thought he deserved higher honors. The Washington Post reports that it took top officials years of convincing before the Florida native could be recognized for his heroic actions.

The Post also reports that President Donald Trump planned to offer the award to Cashe earlier this year, but the ceremony was scuttled in the wake of the Capitol riots.

His widow, Tamara Cashe, was at the White House Thursday to receive the posthumous award.

The other soldiers honored Thursday were Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz and Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee.

Celiz also received the award posthumously. He died after stepping between Taliban fighters and a U.S. helicopter evacuating wounded in 2018.

Biden referred to Celiz as a "Ranger through and through," and described his character as "courage made flesh."

Plumlee is a Special Forces soldier who fought off insurgents in Afghanistan in 2013.

"This recognition has been too long in coming. No one will forget how you acted when the enemy attacked our base," Biden said in honoring Plumlee.