US Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe was on patrol on October 17, 2005, in Samarra, Iraq, when a roadside bomb detonated near the Bradley fighting vehicle carrying the Florida native and his fellow soldiers. Cashe, 35, suffered fatal burns while pulling the soldiers from the burning vehicle. He died on November 8 of that year at the Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told lawmakers in a letter this week that Cashe’s actions “merit the award of the Medal of Honor.” If awarded, Cashe would be the first Black service member honored with the distinction for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Esper’s determination comes after a bipartisan push from lawmakers to upgrade Cashe’s Silver Star Medal, the third-highest US military combat honor, to the Medal of Honor, which is the nation’s highest award for combat valor.
In October 2019, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Republican Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida and Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas sent a letter to Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy requesting a review of Cashe’s case and consideration of the distinction. The latest effort joins previous pushes to posthumously award the honor.
While Esper supports it, he said Congress must waive a rule that requires the Medal of Honor be awarded “within five years after the date of the act justifying the award” before the Department of Defense can take further action.
“Once legislation is enacted authorizing the President of the United States to award, if he so chooses, the Medal of Honor to SFC Cashe, I will provide my endorsement to the President,” Esper said, adding that the final authority for the award “rests solely with the President.”
“My favorable determination in no way presumes what the President’s decision might be,” he said.
Murphy, who represents Cashe’s home district, said Friday that she is “overjoyed” by Esper’s decision.
“Alwyn was a hero in the purest and most profound sense. He gave his own life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers,” Murphy said in a statement. “I am overjoyed that the Secretary of Defense has determined that SFC Cashe’s actions merit the Medal of Honor, a conclusion I strongly share.”
She continued, “I will work with my colleagues to swiftly grant the President the authority he needs to provide this valiant soldier with the recognition he earned.”