Stars and Stripe reported it this way: “It was react or die.” President Barack Obama presented The Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, U.S. Navy, who is a member of A member of Navy SEAL Team 6, CNN.com reported on Monday. It was because Senior Chief Byers, “It was react or die.” The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor and 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. Senior Chief Byers 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, making him the eleventh living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. Senior Chief Byers and his family joined President Obama at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.
President Obama said of Senior Chief Byers during the award ceremony in the East Room of the White House, “Like so many of our special operators, Ed is defined by a deep sense of humility. He doesn’t seek the spotlight. In fact, he shuns it. He’s the consummate quiet professional. I imagine there are a lot of other places he’d rather be than in front of all these cameras. Back in Coronado for another Hell Week. Holding his breath under dark, frigid water. Spending months being cold, wet and sandy. I’m sure there are other things he’d rather be doing.” The reference were to the intensive training the Navy Seals undergo.
President Obama also talked admiringly of what it takes to become a Navy Seal. “But the Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest military decoration. And today’s ceremony is truly unique — a rare opportunity for the American people to get a glimpse of a special breed of warrior that so often serves in the shadows. We’re a nation of more than 300 million Americans. Of these, less than one percent wear the uniform of our armed forces. Of these, just a small fraction serve in our Special Operations forces. Among those who train to become a SEAL, only a select few emerge and earn the right to wear that golden Trident.”
Not only is it rare, but few have received this honor, said President Obama. “And consider this: In the entire history of the Navy SEALs, just five have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Their names have become legend. Norris. Kerrey. Thornton. Murphy. Monsoor. And now, a sixth — Byers. Among the members of the Medal of Honor Society who are with us, we are especially honored by the presence of Tommy Norris and Mike Thornton.”
The White House said that 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:
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.