Navy SEAL Receives Medal of Honor for 2012 Afghanistan Rescue

  • Joseph Byers is 47th Medal of Honor recipient from Obama
  • Byers was part of team that saved a U.S. doctor held hostage

US Navy Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers is congratulated by President Barack Obama after receiving the Medal of Honor in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 29, 2016.

Photographer: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

A Navy SEAL who rescued a doctor held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan became the 11th living service member to receive the U.S. Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, 36, received the top military award Monday from President Barack Obama at the White House for a 2012 raid in which a fellow SEAL was killed. Byers and his SEAL team recovered Dilip Joseph, a U.S. doctor who recounted his rescue in the book “A Story of Terror, Hope and Rescue by Seal Team Six: Kidnapped by the Taliban."

“Standing here in front of the nation is not Senior Chief Byers’s idea of a good time. He does not seek the spotlight. He shuns it,” Obama said while presenting the honor in the White House East Room. It was the 47th Medal of Honor Obama has awarded.

Byers completed SEAL training in 2002 and has deployed overseas eight times, according to the White House. On Dec. 8, 2012, Byers and his team hiked more than four hours through the mountains of eastern Afghanistan to a compound where Joseph was believed to be held, according to an account by the Navy.

After they were spotted by a guard outside the building, a member of Byers’s team shot at the sentry and then pursued him through a makeshift door, six layers of blankets hung in front of the entry. Byers’s colleague, Petty Officer First Class Nicolas Checque, was immediately shot and died of his wounds.

“Chief Byers, fully aware of the hostile threat inside the room, boldly entered and immediately engaged a guard pointing an AK-47 towards him,” the Navy said.

After engaging another militant in hand-to-hand combat, Byers flung himself on top of Joseph to protect him from gunfire, and then pinned a third militant to the wall with his hands around the man’s throat until another SEAL shot him. Byers, a certified paramedic, performed CPR on Checque during the 40-minute flight to Bagram Airfield, according to the Navy’s citation.

Byers is the sixth SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor, according to the Navy. Two of the previous recipients attended Byers’s award at the White House.

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