WASHINGTON – A Virginia Beach-based Navy SEAL received the Medal of Honor 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.
President Barack Obama presented the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers at the White House on Monday, February 29th at 11:00 a.m.
The White House highlighted “his courageous actions” and “selfless service” during the December 2012 operation. The Pentagon described the encounter as involving “hand-to-hand combat” with multiple adversaries.
According to an unclassified summary from a defense official obtained by CNN, Byers “displayed superior gallantry, extraordinary heroism at grave personal risk” and is “unquestionably deserving of the Medal of Honor.”
The rescue of American medical doctor Dilip Joseph took place in eastern Afghanistan and also resulted in the death of a member of the Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly known as SEAL Team Six.
The unclassified summary said that Byers was the second member of the rescue team to enter the building where Joseph was being held.
The report stated that the first team member to enter was “immediately shot by enemy AK-47 fire” and that upon entering, Byers “immediately engaged a guard” in a firefight and managed to tackle another guard, subduing him by way of hand-to-hand combat.
When the other rescue team members asked Joseph to identify himself, Byers heard an unknown voice speaking English and “immediately leaped across the room and selflessly flung his body on top of the American hostage, shielding him from the continued rounds being fired across the room,” the report said.
The report also stated that while shielding Joseph with his body, Byers engaged another insurgent and “was able to pin the enemy combatant to the wall with his hand around the enemy’s throat” until the other members of the team could “fire precision shots” to take out the final enemy guard.
In an effort to save the team member who had been shot, Byers, a certified paramedic, performed CPR during the 40-minute flight to Bagram Airfield, the report said.
At the time, military officials said that Joseph was in imminent danger of injury or death when the rescue mission was launched.
Byers is the 11th living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.
Byers, an Ohio native, was joined by his family during the ceremony, which took place at the White House.
"The strength of the Naval Special Warfare community is in its exceptional people. Senior Chief Ed Byers' actions on the battlefield reflect the highest ideals of our profession: bravery, selfless dedication to duty, and above all, the highest level of commitment to protect the lives of others and the freedom for which our nation stands," said Rear Admiral Brian Losey, Commander Naval Special Warfare. "We are humbled by Senior Chief Byers' incredible example of service, and are proud to call him Teammate."
Senior Chief Byers was born in Toledo, Ohio on August 4, 1979 and graduated from Otesgo High School in Tontogany, Ohio in June 1997.
Senior Chief Byers currently holds a National Paramedics License, and will graduate from Norwich University with a Bachelor of Science in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis in early 2016.
Senior Chief Byers entered the Navy in September 1998, attending boot camp and Hospital Corpsman School at Great Lakes, Illinois. He served at Great Lakes Naval Hospital, and then with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
In 2002, he attended the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course, graduating from Class 242, and completed the Special Operations Combat Medic course in 2003.
Senior Chief Byers has been assigned to various east coast SEAL teams, and completed eight overseas deployments with seven combat tours.
Senior Chief Byers’ awards and decorations include five awards of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat V device, two awards of the Purple Heart, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor device, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat V device, two additional awards of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two awards of the Combat Action Ribbon, three Presidential Unit Citations, two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, two Navy Unit Commendations, and five Good Conduct Medals.
The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty while:
- engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
- engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
- serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
There must be no margin of doubt or possibility of error in awarding this honor. To justify this decoration, the deed performed must have been one of personal bravery and self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades, and must have involved risk of life. It must also be the type of deed which if not done would not subject the individual to any justified criticism.