A Navy SEAL who trained in San Diego early in his military career was awarded the Medal of Honor Monday by President Barack Obama for his actions in helping rescue an American doctor held hostage in Afghanistan.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr., 36, was a member of the team that rescued Dr. Dilip Joseph after he and his driver and Afghan interpreter were abducted in the Qarghah’i District of Laghman Province in December 2012, according to the White House and the Navy.
“Trading personal security for speed of action was inherent to the success of this rescue mission,” according to a Navy statement. “Each assaulter in the rescue force volunteered for this operation with full appreciation for the risks they were to undertake.”
A fellow team member was shot while entering the small, single-room building where Joseph was being held. But Byers continued inside, became involved in hand-to-hand combat with an armed guard then shielded the American hostage from gunfire, according to the Navy.
Byers spotted another enemy fighter and was able to pin him to the wall while still covering the hostage with his body. Byers restrained the combatant long enough that a teammate was able to shoot him, according to the Navy.
Byers, who is also certified as a paramedic, then attempted to assist an injured colleague while en route to Bagram Airfield. However, the team member who had been shot was pronounced dead following the roughly 40-minute flight.
“Chief Petty Officer Byers displayed superior gallantry, extraordinary heroism at grave personal risk, dedication to his teammates and calm tactical leadership while liberating Dr. Dilip Joseph from captivity,” according to the Navy statement. “He is unquestionably deserving of the Medal of Honor.”
Byers, 36, is the sixth SEAL to be awarded the Medal of Honor and the 11th living service member to receive it for actions in Afghanistan.
The Virginia-based military man is believed to be the first service member to receive the Medal of Honor for actions while serving with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as SEAL Team 6, though defense officials would only say that he is the first living SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.
An Ohio native, Byers entered the Navy in September 1998, attending boot camp and Hospital Corpsman School in Great Lakes, Illinois
Byers served at Great Lakes Naval Hospital, and then with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
In 2002, Byers attended the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course in San Diego, then completed the Special Operations Combat Medic course the following year. He has completed 11 overseas deployments with nine combat tours.
Byers’ other honors include a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and a Joint Service Commendation Medal. He is due to graduate from Norwich University with a bachelor’s degree in strategic studies and defense analysis this year.
— City News Service
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