Heroism and Sacrifice Mark Troopers’ Medal of Honor Ceremony at White Home

Three Medals of Honor, three troopers, and three winding tales of heroism all got here collectively on the White Home on Thursday as President Joe Biden introduced the nation’s highest army award.

Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe died of wounds suffered from rescuing “his boys” from a burning Bradley Combating Automobile in Iraq one evening in 2005. His eldest sister, Kasinal Cashe-White, spent the previous 15 years campaigning for Cashe to obtain the medal, pushing by means of all setbacks and frustrations. Lastly, she sat watching the president describe her brother’s heroism to the nation.

Katie Celiz met her husband Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, a teenage romantic, once they had been each working in a grocery retailer throughout highschool. She misplaced him on a battlefield in Afghanistan when, regardless of his wounds, he selflessly refused to board an evacuation helicopter and as an alternative used his physique as a defend towards enemy fireplace. Years later, she too stood on the White Home stage.

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In the course of the day that will exhibit his braveness again in 2013, Grasp Sgt. Earl Plumlee actually did not suppose he would survive. However there he was standing straight in his crisp uniform within the East Room on Thursday. The Inexperienced Beret confronted down hordes of suicide bombers, leaping from a automobile pistol blazing, in real-life heroism extra harrowing and unbelievable than any Hollywood script.

“Whereas at the moment we honor three excellent troopers whose actions embody the very best beliefs of selfless service, we additionally bear in mind the excessive worth our army members and their households are prepared to pay on behalf of our nation,” Biden mentioned in the course of the Medal of Honor ceremony.

All three medals go to troopers who served within the nation’s post-9/11 wars. Cashe is the primary Black service member to obtain the Medal of Honor in both battle.

President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to Army Sgt. First Class Alwyn C. Cashe for his actions in Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005, as his widow Tamara Cashe accepts the posthumous recognition throughout an occasion within the East Room of the White Home, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Picture/Evan Vucci)

Cashe was on an evening patrol close to Samarra in 2005 because the insurgency struggle in Iraq was nonetheless constructing to its bloody crescendo. The noncommissioned officer had enlisted 16 years earlier and felt a particular accountability for the troopers in his unit.

“A few of them had been older than him. A few of them had been youthful than him, however they had been all his boys,” Cashe-White mentioned this week in a media roundtable simply exterior of Washington, D.C.

His Bradley Combating Automobile was hit by an improvised explosive machine. The automobile burst into flames, and troopers had been trapped inside. Cashe, whose fuel-soaked uniform caught fireplace, climbed into the burning Bradley 3 times. He saved six troopers and an Iraqi interpreter.

Biden known as him a soldier’s soldier. “No soldier goes to be left behind on his watch. When helicopters started to reach, he insisted that his troops be evacuated earlier than he would go,” the president mentioned.

Cashe suffered burns over practically 72% of his physique and died three weeks later at Brooke Army Medical Heart in Texas.

Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe

His sister, Cashe-White, has spent practically all of the years since believing that her brother would at some point obtain the Medal of Honor for what he did that evening. When the phrase lastly got here, it was a sudden jolt, like a tire erupting. “This time it was a blowout like, ‘Oh, my God,’ so it was a superb factor,” she mentioned.

She created a Fb web page to advocate for the medal, and located assist and solace with the troopers he saved. They nonetheless name to elevate her up and provides information of their lives.

“Somebody has a child, and so they say, ‘I would not have been in a position to have this little one if it hadn’t been to your brother and his actions,'” mentioned Cashe-White, who’s now contemplating a basis in her brother’s title. “I imply, this reminiscence will all the time be with me. I simply need this reminiscence to be with everyone else.”

Chris Celiz’s reminiscence can be now written into the annals of U.S. army historical past. Katie Celiz and her 11-year-old daughter Shannon stood on the stage Thursday with out him, there within the East Room with Biden as a soldier listed his acts of heroism.

Shannon Celiz, daughter of Sgt. First Class Christopher Celiz, holds Medal of Honor
Shannon Celiz, daughter of Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Celiz, holds the Medal of Honor after accepting the posthumous recognition for her father for his actions in Afghanistan on July 12, 2018, as his widow Katherine Celiz, left, and President Joe Biden look on throughout an occasion within the East Room of the White Home, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Picture/Evan Vucci)

These moments throughout a vicious firefight in Paktia province, Afghanistan, in the summertime of 2018 saved members of his crew and an aircrew, however they left his household with out a husband and father. His resolution to refuse evacuation to make sure the protection of troops in a helicopter continues to be tough for his spouse.

“I am nonetheless a bit indignant at him for deciding to do this, however I understood why he felt the necessity to do it,” Katie Celiz informed reporters this week.

Celiz was on his fifth deployment with the first Battalion, seventy fifth Ranger Regiment, when his unit got here beneath assault. They had been pinned down, and Celiz purposely uncovered himself to enemy machine-gun and small-arms fireplace, permitting the crew to shift positions.

A medevac flight additionally got here beneath fireplace, and Celiz positioned himself between the enemy fireplace and the crew within the cockpit, defending them and permitting the helicopter to depart. He was shot and mortally wounded because it was lifting off.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz trains while carrying his daughter
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz performs bodily coaching carrying his daughter on his again. On today, they accomplished over a mile collectively. (Picture courtesy of Katie Celiz)

Years earlier, earlier than 9/11 and his army service, Celiz and Katie had been two highschool college students who labored on the similar grocery retailer within the South Carolina low nation. Throughout her shifts, Katie’s jacket would mysteriously go lacking from its hanger, till she caught Celiz sporting it within the car parking zone at some point.

“The following day, I went to go get my jacket and it was lastly there, and contained in the coat pockets had been rose petals,” Katie Celiz mentioned. “I simply felt blessed that I obtained to have the years that I had with Chris.”

Biden mentioned Celiz’s legacy lives on in his teammates. “Thanks for sharing your dad with our nation, Shannon. We’ll always remember the debt that we owe you and your complete household,” he mentioned.

Plumlee alone can have the privilege of sporting the Medal of Honor. He was making ready for one more deployment when he obtained phrase he can be receiving the very best army honor, and becoming a member of the pantheon of its best heroes.

Then-Staff Sgt. Earl Plumlee during pre-deployment training
Then-Employees Sgt. Earl Plumlee, poses for a photograph throughout pre-deployment coaching, 2013, Yakima, Wash. (U.S. Army photograph)

“I used to be initially terrified on the velocity at which the award course of form of got here collectively. The wait did not hassle me essentially,” Plumlee mentioned this week. “All that scrutiny after which to have the award permitted later, I simply suppose actually validates it.”

A 400-pound automotive bomb blew a 60-foot gap within the perimeter wall of Ahead Working Base Ghazni, Afghanistan, in the summertime of 2013, simply as Plumlee was exterior getting a photograph of the members of his unit. Ten fighters sporting Afghan Nationwide Army uniforms and suicide vests poured by means of the gaping breach.

Plumlee and fellow troopers raced to the positioning of the complicated assault in a automobile. The motive force pulled in entrance of wounded teammates to offer cowl, whereas Plumlee used his physique to defend the motive force and jumped out, charging the fighters and capturing with solely his pistol.

He discovered cowl and killed two fighters, then stored pushing ahead alone.

“I completely thought that I used to be going to die,” Plumlee mentioned this week.

He and different troops mounted a counterattack amid intense combating. Plumlee ran to a wounded soldier, carrying him to security and offering first support. He and a bunch of U.S. and coalition troops had been ultimately in a position to overcome the attackers and safe the bottom.

“This recognition has been too lengthy in coming, delayed for you and your loved ones as properly,” Biden mentioned, acknowledging the Army’s preliminary resolution to say no the Medal of Honor. “And nobody, nobody, will ever overlook the way you sprang into motion when the enemy attacked our base.”

Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee makes coffee from a river with his dog Pepper
Grasp Sgt. Earl Plumlee makes espresso from a river together with his canine Pepper. (Picture Courtesy of Plumlee Household)

Plumlee mentioned the medal is mostly a recognition of his complete crew and what they did throughout that 2013 assault. As for the way the Medal of Honor and its status could change his life and profession, he maintains the identical sort of stoic resolve he confirmed within the face of battlefield horrors.

“Clearly, it might be pretty tough to do lots of jobs and missions that Special Forces does bringing the form of recognition that this award carries,” Plumlee mentioned. “However you recognize, the Army has plenty of jobs, and any person’s obtained to do all of them, so I suppose I will discover work someplace.”

— Travis Tritten might be reached at travis.tritten@army.com. Comply with him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.

Associated: Medals of Honor to Be Awarded to Alwyn Cashe, 2 Afghanistan Troopers

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