This installment of Tales of Honor is one that has been in the news a lot recently, so I figured it was as good a time as any to introduce Chief Edward Byers Jr. He is the first Navy Seal to receive the Medal of Honor since Vietnam. He is an American hero and will forever be remembered, no matter what the New York Times tried to say about him.
Almost everyone who has access to the internet has heard of the clandestine S.E.A.L. team known as SEAL Team Six. They are the ones who took down Osama and have conducted countless other major operations for which they were likely never credited.
They are, after all, silent professionals whose existence only became known to the public after our current President decided to trot out there existence for political points. Well another raid that was credited to their name was the freeing of American Doctor Dilip Joseph who had been captured by the Taliban and was being held for ransom.
Chief Byers grew up in small town Ohio, Tontonagy to be specific. He joined the Navy in 1998 and made his way to the SEAL teams in 2003 after also being trained as a combat medic. He served 8 tours as a SEAL but the specifics of his service are mostly still classified.
Rest assured that he was no slouch, as his collection of decorations can show. Prior to receiving the MoH he also received five Bronze Stars with valor, two Purple Hearts, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with valor, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals (one with valor), two Combat Action Ribbons, three Presidential Unit Citations, two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, two Navy Unit Commendations and five Good Conduct Medals.
Well, time for the story you came to read. SEAL team six was given the opportunity to negotiate with these particular Taliban 4 days later. Their primary tools for the negotiation were stealth, speed, decisiveness of action, and of course some good old fashioned American firepower! Each member of this particular raid had volunteered for the mission, and the Navy said in a report that “Trading personal security for speed of action was inherent to the success of this rescue mission”. So clearly Chief Byers was willing to step up when the wolf came knocking at the door, or in this case go hunt the wolf down in whatever hole it crawled in.
After walking 4 hours through the rough Afghani mountains to reach the compound the volunteers arrived at about midnight on December 9th 2012. The team was spotted about 80 ft from the compound by a guard and the firefight was on. Byers and the team had to move fast to prevent the hostage being killed out of spite or pure hatred by the Taliban.
The first SEAL through the door was shot by the men inside, but that certainly didn’t stop Byers from rushing through the door after him. Byers immediately tackled a Taliban fighter and surveyed the room while his teammate shouted for the hostage to identify himself. Byers subdued the fighter he had tackled and dove on to the man identifying himself as the hostage.
While shielding Dilip from the fighting with his own body he calmly asked him if he had been fed, if he could walk, and if he had been mistreated. Oh did I forget to mention that while he did this he was also pinning a Taliban fighter to the wall with his hand on his throat? That seems like an important detail of exactly how hard of a man Byers is.
Now the New York Times wrote an article about this particular raid claiming all sorts of things about how the Navy covered up inappropriate actions by the SEALs in this mission. The only partially grateful doctor claimed one of the Taliban he had befriended before the mission was killed after the fighting. I will chalk this one up to a little bit of shock on the good doctors part. The New York Times can go ahead and well, I am sure you can be creative.
Now it’s imperative to mention one other hero. Petty Officer 1st Class Nicholas Cheque, aged 28 and the first one through the door that night, died of the wounds he sustained. He was pronounced dead upon arrival to Bagram airfield. Another hero taken before his time.
Today Senior Chief, a well earned promotion, Byers is finishing his Bachelor of Science at Norwich University in strategic studies and defense analysis. You can find his citation here. He will finish a year early, clearly an outstanding individual. America is lucky to have men and women of his caliber answering her call!