A heroic soldier who gave his life saving teammates from a burning vehicle during the Iraq War has been authorized to receive the Medal of Honor.
President Donald Trump on Friday signed H.R. 8276 into law, which authorized the president to grant the award to Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe by waiving a requirement it be approved within five years of the heroic action. Cashe repeatedly entered a burning vehicle to recover soldiers wounded in a roadside bombing in Samarra, Iraq in Oct. 2005, despite being drenched in fuel.
Now that the president has signed the bill into law, the Department of Defense can make a formal recommendation to award the Medal of Honor to Cashe. He had posthumously received the Silver Star, the third-highest valor award.
Many people have argued that Cashe deserved the nation’s highest award for combat bravery, including Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, his former commander, who has led a campaign to upgrade Cashe’s award for more than a decade.
“You don’t often find truly selfless sacrifice where someone put his soldiers’ welfare before his own,” Brito told The Los Angeles Times in 2014. “Sgt. Cashe was horribly wounded and continued to fight to save his men.”
After his Bradley Fighting Vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb on Oct 17, 2005, Cashe, soaked in fuel, escaped the gunner’s hatch and then helped pull out his driver, according to his Silver Star citation.
“Without regard for his personal safety,” the citation reads, Cashe then “rushed to the back of the vehicle, reaching into the hot flames and started pulling out his soldiers. The flames gripped his fuel soaked uniform. Flames quickly spread all over his body.”
Despite agonizing pain, Cashe continued evacuating soldiers from the Bradley, ultimately saving six. He suffered second and third-degree burns over 72% of his body and died weeks later at an Army hospital in Texas.
“Sgt. Cashe saved my life,” Gary Mills, who was inside the burning Bradley, told The Los Angeles Times in 2011. “With all the ammo inside that vehicle and all those flames, we’d have been dead in another minute or two.”
In the hospital when Cashe could speak, according to his sister Kasinal Cashe White, his first words were: “How are my boys?” in reference to his soldiers. “I couldn’t get to them fast enough,” he said.
“He just kept saying, ‘I’m good, I’m good, take care of my guys,’” Alisha Turner, a former Air Force medic who was part of the team that treated Cashe, told Task & Purpose in 2018. “He wanted us to focus on everyone else. It was as if they were his children.”
In August, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper sent a letter to lawmakers stating that Cashe’s “actions merit award of the Medal of Honor.” Esper added that he would provide his endorsement to the president.
Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller holds the same view, a defense official told Task & Purpose on Saturday, adding that Miller had sent his endorsement to The White House.
“Now that we have enacted bipartisan legislation to remove the only obstacle standing in the way of Alwyn receiving the Medal of Honor, which the Department of Defense has already concluded he earned, I hope the President will move swiftly to announce the award,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) said in a written statement.
“The story of Alwyn’s heroism has inspired so many people and I cannot wait for the day that his family will receive the nation’s highest award for combat valor on his behalf.”
Murphy, who represents the congressional district of Cashe’s birthplace in Sanford, Florida, was joined on the bipartisan bill with Reps. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), and Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas). Both lawmakers expressed optimism that Cashe would ultimately receive the award.
“I’m very grateful and proud to have been part of this bipartisan effort — and I’m looking forward to the ceremony at the White House to bestow this great honor to Alwyn and show our nation’s profound gratitude to his family for his selfless act of courage,” said Waltz, a former Army special forces officer.