The Medal of Honor is the highest award a member of the armed services bestows for valor in action against an enemy of the United States. Sergeant First Class Alwyn Crendall Cashe was born in Sanford, FL in 1970. His actions in October of 2005 demonstrated bravery, risk of life, and self-sacrifice. Cashe suffered fatal burns by repeatedly entering into a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle to save the lives of his soldiers. While 15 years have passed since this act of bravery, the wheels are finally turning for Cashe to receive the honor he deserves.
Cashe saved 7 soldiers while smoldering and soaked in fuel
As an Alpha Company platoon sergeant from Forward Operating Base McKenzie adjacent to Daliaya, Iraq, SFC Cashe was in the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicle when it struck an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The vehicles fuel cell ruptured, instantly covering Cashe in fuel and immediately burst into flames. While under small arms fire, SFC Cache exited the vehicle and assisted the driver with his egress, extinguishing the driver’s burning clothes. Still smoldering and soaked in fuel, Cashe immediately moved to the rear of the vehicle, rescuing six more soldiers. SFC Cashe completed all of this as his body continued to burn. Even after the scene was cleared, Cashe ensured all soldiers were evacuated.
As a result, SFC Cashe suffered burns on over 72% of his body, and he succumbed to his injuries on November 8, 2005 at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam, TX.
CASHE NOMINATED FOR SILVER STAR AWARD First
Major General (MG) Gary Brito, who was Cashe’s Battalion Commander at the time, nominated Cashe for the Silver Star Award. All the witnesses were evacuated for medical treatment and were not available to make statements at the time. Once MG Brito was able to gather all the statements, he began the process of trying to upgrade the Silver Star to the Medal of Honor.
Cashe was so well loved that one former staff sergeant made it his purpose to ride his bike around the country and tell people about a true American hero. Harry Conner, at 63 years old, felt a connection to Cashe based on some similar service locations, and he reached out to Cashe’s family. After that, Conner has ridden all over the country in his retirement, rallying with others to award Cashe with a Medal of Honor. “In the three-and-a-half years I’ve been doing this, I have not met a single person who had anything bad to say about him, not even his trainees,” Conner explained back in 2014. “I was a drill sergeant for two-and-a-half years and they hated me!” The Facebook group, “SFC Alwyn C. Cashe Deserves the Medal of Honor”, also rallied for Cashe with over 8,000 followers.
MG Brito gained traction last year when three members of Congress took up the case and wrote to the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Army formally requesting an upgrade of Cashe‘s award to the Medal of Honor. On August 24 Secretary of Defense Mark Esper agreed that Sergeant First Class Cashe’s actions merit the Medal of Honor. All that’s left is for Congress to waive the rule that a Medal of Honor be awarded within five years of the act. “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.
History of the Medal of Honor
There are two methods for being awarded the Medal of Honor. The most common is a service member nomination through the chain of command. The second is presentation by member of Congress. To date, there have been 3,525 medals of honor awarded. Sergeant First Class Cashe will be the first African-American awarded the Medal of Honor for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Remember the Family and Remember the Sacrifice of Our Service Members
In Oviedo, the town near Orlando where Cashe grew up and graduated high school, the post office has been renamed. His wife and children remain in the area, with their son Andrew graduating Infantry One Station Unit Training (OSUT) at Fort Benning, GA in July of this year.
Cynthia Gibson, a Jacksonville mother who only met Cashe once before the platoon shipped to Iraq, said her son Sergeant Gary Mills survived the roadside blast in October 2005 only because of Cashe’s heroism during the attack.
We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the many fallen service members throughout our great nation’s history. Cashe’s story shows the depths of bravery some service members reach – sacrifices that deserve to be honored at the highest level, no matter how long it takes. Even though it’s been 15 years, please take a few moments to remember this great American hero and pray for his family.