Afghan hero, SEAL first active Navy sailor to get Medal of Honor in four decades

AP

President Barack Obama is awarding the nation’s highest military honor to a Navy SEAL who participated in a daring 2012 raid that rescued an American hostage in Afghanistan.

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, Jr., is the first living, active duty member of the Navy to receive the award in four decades.

Obama says Byers is the “consummate quiet professional” who would rather be elsewhere, but he says the ceremony gives Americans the chance to glimpse a special kind of warrior who often serves in the shadows.

The rescue was undertaken by members of the Navy’s famed SEAL Team 6. Byers was the second Navy SEAL to enter the building containing hostage Dr. Dilip Joseph, who was abducted along with his driver and Afghan interpreter. The first to enter the building, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, was shot and killed.

Hearing English, Byers threw himself on the hostage, using his body to shield Joseph from the bullets, Obama said. Another enemy fighter appeared, and Byers pinned the fighter to the wall and held him until his teammates took action.

“In just minutes, by going after those guards, Ed saved the lives of several teammates, and that hostage,” Obama said.

Obama also honored Checque’s service during Monday’s ceremony, noting that he is among 55 SEALs to make the ultimate sacrifice since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.