“Today we honor three outstanding soldiers whose actions embody the highest ideals of selfless service,” Biden said. “We also remember the high price our military members and their families are willing to pay on behalf of our nation.”
Biden praised Cashe for his selflessness and dedication to his fellow soldiers. The Florida native is the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor since the end of the Vietnam era. His widow, Tamara, accepted the medal on her husband’s behalf.
As a platoon sergeant in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Cashe was in command of a Bradley vehicle during a night patrol near Samarra, Iraq. During that expedition, an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle.
“The patrol [team] was still taking enemy fire, but Cashe thought only of his fellow soldiers trapped in the troop compartment,” Biden said. “He pushed his own pain aside and returned to the burning vehicle and pulled four soldiers free … His love for his 3rd Infantry Division ran deep. No soldier is going to be left behind on his watch.”
The Bradley erupted in flames, and Cashe, drenched in fuel, pushed through the fire to rescue his fellow soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter. Although Cashe had burns on 72% of his body, he refused medical attention until he carried all his troops to safety. Cashe would later succumb to his injuries at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
“Alwyn Cashe was a soldier’s soldier — a warrior who literally walked through fire for his troops,” Biden said.
Cashe is survived by his spouse, Tamara Cashe; daughters, Lajada and Alexis; and son, Andrew.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz
In Afghanistan, Celiz earned the Medal of Honor for his selfless actions on July 12, 2018. During that assignment, he stood between enemy fire and fellow U.S. troops and allies as they carried a wounded ally to safety.
Near the end of his fifth deployment in July 2018, Celiz led a special operation to clear an area of enemy forces and prevent future attacks in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan. Suddenly, a large contingent of enemy forces attacked his unit.
In response to the surprise attack, Celiz immediately went to a heavy weapons system to defend team members from machine gun and small arms fire. Realizing that the enemy fire prevented his team from mounting a counterattack, the soldier from Summerville, South Carolina, used his body as a shield while firing his rifle to defend fellow troops as they assisted a critically wounded ally.
“The sergeant knew his time was critical to get his wounded teammate loaded and treated,” Biden said. “So, he, once again, knowingly and willingly stepped into the enemy’s crosshairs.”
After a medical helicopter lifted off to carry the wounded to safety, enemy fire struck Celiz. Instead of seeking medical attention, Celiz waved the helicopter off, ignored his wound, and stood between the aircraft and enemy bullets. Celiz later died of his injuries.
The president lauded Celiz for his courage against insurmountable odds. He presented the medal to Celiz’s wife and daughter.
“His legacy lives on in the lives he saved, the teammates he mentored, and the memories he made with his beloved wife, Katie, and especially with their precious daughter, Shannon,” Biden said. “Thank you for sharing your dad with our country, Shannon; we will never forget the debt that we owe you and your whole family.”
Army Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee
Then-Staff Sgt. Earl Plumlee was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in April 2013.
While serving as a weapons sergeant assigned to Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, at Forward Operating Base Ghazni, enemy insurgents tore a 60-foot crevice into the wall of the FOB.
Plumlee and five Special Forces soldiers raced toward the opening on two vehicles. After using his body to shield his driver from enemy fire, Plumlee repeatedly engaged multiple enemy targets, using only his pistol at times. At one point, the force of an enemy detonating a suicide vest pushed Plumlee into a wall.
“Bullets flew by — sometimes only inches away, and time and again, Staff Sgt. Plumlee closed with the enemy,” Biden said. “[On] multiple occasions during the fight, the insurgents detonated their vests right in front of him — at one point, hurling him into a wall and injuring his back.”
Ultimately, Plumlee led U.S. and Polish soldiers in a counterattack to defeat the insurgents. He also rescued and treated a wounded U.S. soldier.
“Now, Master Sgt. Plumlee, this recognition has been too long delayed for you and your family,” Biden said. “And no one will ever forget how you sprang into action when the enemy attacked our base. I’m grateful for your continued service and dedication to the country.”
Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe grew up in poverty in Oviedo, Florida, and joined the U.S. Army as a supply specialist shortly after graduating from Oviedo High School. He initially served two years in Korea, followed by nearly three years at Fort Lewis, Washington. In 1993, he became an infantryman and served another yearlong tour in Korea. Cashe served as a squad leader for two years at Fort Hood, Texas, and for two years in Germany. He graduated from Drill Sergeant School in 1998, and served over two years as a drill sergeant at Fort Benning, Georgia. He returned to Europe in February 2001 as an operations noncommissioned officer for the 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment, then served in Germany for two years as a squad leader in the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment. Finally, in April 2004 Cashe served as a platoon sergeant in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Gulf War (1991), Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003 and 2005)
AWARDS & DECORATIONS
Cashe’s awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with one silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with one silver oak leaf cluster, the Army Good Conduct Medal with five knots, the National Defense Service with bronze star device, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Kosovo Campaign Medal, the Armed Forces Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, two NATO Medals, the Drill Sergeant Identification Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachutist Badge, the Driver Badge and the Expert Rifle Marksmanship Badge.
SERGEANT FIRST CLASS
CHRISTOPHER A. CELIZ
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher A. Celiz, a native of Summerville, South Carolina, enlisted in the United States Army in September 2006. He completed Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training as a combat engineer (12B) at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Summerville, South Carolina
September 9, 2006
MILITARY OCCUPATION (MOS)
Combat Engineer (12B)
1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
Operation Iraqi Freedom (2008), Operation Enduring Freedom (2011, 2013 and 2014), Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (2015, 2016 and 2018)
AWARDS & DECORATIONS
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (2 bronze oak leaf clusters), the Navy Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medals (4 bronze oak leaf clusters), the Meritorious Unit Citation Medal (2), the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star (3), the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star (2), the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Ranger tab, the Sapper tab, the Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge.
EARL D. PLUMLEE
Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee was born in Clinton, Oklahoma. He grew up working on his family’s cattle ranch and oil field instrument company. He began his military career by joining the Oklahoma National Guard, serving in the 45th Field Artillery Brigade as a rocket artilleryman (13M) during his junior year of high school. After graduating high school in 2000, Plumlee joined the United States Marine Corps. He attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California and Marine Corps School of Infantry. Plumlee was then assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, located in Kaneohe, Hawaii, where he served his first enlistment in a weapons platoon.
MILITARY OCCUPATION (MOS)
Operations (Team) Sergeant 18Z
1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Operation Iraqi Freedom (2005 and 2008), Operation Enduring Freedom (2013)
AWARDS & DECORATIONS
His awards and decorations include the Silver Star, the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, two Navy Achievement Medals, the Combat Action Ribbon, four Army Good Conduct Medals, two Marine Corps Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the Iraq Campaign Medal with Arrowhead Device, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device, three Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the NATO Medal, two Navy Unit Commendations, the Marine Unit Commendation, the Special Forces Tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Military Free-Fall Parachute Badge and the Indonesian Parachutist Badge.
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