Florida Veteran to Receive Medal of Honor Years After Death in Iraq

by Matthew Memrick

A Florida veteran whose heroic rescue efforts saved seven people during the Iraq war will finally be honored with the Medal of Honor.

Next week, a White House ceremony will honor U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe and two other men. Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz died protecting an evacuation helicopter. Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee risked his life fighting off a horde of suicide bombers overrunning his base.

Miltary.com noted that Cashe is the first Black service member to receive the medal from either Iraq or Afghanistan conflict.

According to WFTV, Oviedo resident Cashe almost died on Oct. 17, 2005, when an improvised explosive device took out his Bradley fighting vehicle. 

The veteran pulled six men and an Iraqi interpreter out of the burning car. The outstanding sergeant got burned and caught enemy fire during the attack. Cashe died a month later.

The man’s family will get his Medal of Honor during the formal ceremony on Dec. 16. 

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday the awards were “long-awaited” and “undoubtedly well deserved for such displays of heroism and courage.”  

Cashe’s Heroism Showed During Attack

According to Military.com, the 35-year-old man had enlisted in 1989. The attack happened during a nighttime patrol in Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq, in 2005.

The blast took out the vehicle’s fuel tank. As Cashe and another soldier pulled the driver to safety, the sergeant’s uniform caught fire. A White House account stated that Cashe suffered “severe second- and third-degree burns covering the majority of his body.”  

The veteran still managed to go back to the vehicle twice. First, he helped rescue four trapped soldiers. Then, he worked to find two other missing troops. Official accounts mentioned he worked to get the soldiers medical care. 

According to the White House, the man “refused evacuation until all of the other wounded soldiers were first evacuated.”  

Veteran’s Honor Almost Denied By Technicality

A loophole may have prevented Cashe from his medal. Florida Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, who represents Ovideo, worked to pass a bipartisan bill that awarded the honor while fixing the issue. 

Also, Cashe’s surviving sister and supporters spent years lobbying for the medal. 

Federal law had previously stated that the any Medal of Honor recipient had to get their medal within five years of the noble act.

President Donald Trump signed the bill in 2020, making the honor happen.

Murphy recently said in a statement that she was “overjoyed” by the veteran’s honor.

“I wish this amazing man were alive to receive it himself,” Murphy said. “I am so happy for his family and fellow soldiers who fought for years to ensure that Alwyn received the recognition he earned.”

Notably, the segreant’s name is honored by an Army Reserve center at Fort Benning in Georgia.