WASHINGTON – Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, a Navy SEAL and member of the unit’s elite SEAL Team Six, is scheduled to receive the nation’s highest military honor for his actions during a hostage rescue mission in Afghanistan, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the White House.
Byers, 36, will be presented the award in a White House ceremony at the end of the month.
In prior Medal of Honor announcements, the White House has released summaries of the recipients actions that led to the medal. In Tuesday’s statement, however, the only nod to Byers’ heroics was that he will receive the medal for “his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012.”
The civilian rescued was Dr. Dilip Joseph, an aid worker who was kidnapped in eastern Kabul and held for approximately a week before a detachment of SEALs killed a number of his captors and rescued him during a nighttime raid. One of the SEALs, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, involved in the raid was killed.
“It is great to hear he is getting this award,” Joseph said in a phone interview, adding that he believes, though he is not entirely sure, that Byers shielded him by laying on top of him while the rest of the SEAL team eliminated Joseph’s five captors in the room.
Joseph said his encounter with Byers was extremely brief but he was taken aback by how dedicated he was and how willing he was to risk his life for a total stranger.
“The whole operation lasted two minutes,” Joseph said, adding the only time they had to wait was for the helicopter to come pick them up. “I’m honored to have been apart of the whole thing.”
Byers was born in Toledo, Ohio, and joined the Navy in 1998, according to a biography released by the White House. He started his career as a hospital corpsman and spent time with a Marine infantry unit before trying out for the SEALs.
He graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course in 2002 and deployed more than eight times with various SEAL units based out of the Virginia Beach area.
Byers is the recipient five Bronze Stars with the combat distinguishing “v” device, as well as two Combat Action Ribbons and two Purple Hearts. He is currently finishing his bachelor’s degree at Norwich University, a private military university in upstate Vermont and is a licensed paramedic.
The decorated SEAL will be the 11th living recipient of the Medal of Honor to come out of the war in Afghanistan. Lt. Michael Murphy was the last Navy SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor, though posthumously. Murphy was killed during Operation Red Wings in 2005 in Afghanistan. He received the medal for braving enemy fire to make a last-ditch satellite phone call to save his pinned down SEAL team and was ultimately killed in the process.
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The Washington Post’s Julie Tate contributed to this report.