Extraordinary Americans: Medal of Honor Recipients Cashe, Celiz, Plumlee
Extraordinary Americans: Medal of Honor Recipients Cashe, Celiz, Plumlee
Today, three extraordinary Americans received the Medal of Honor. As we honor these soldiers, we should also reflect on and be ever thankful that Americans such as they stand ready to do battle on our behalf.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award America has. It is an award granted to a very few, and as any of those Americans can tell you, they didn’t “win” this award. They are recipients of this great honor. To date, there are 3,572 men whose stories epitomize the very best of America.
Gallantry in action. Intrepidity. Above and beyond the call of duty. Risk of life. Selflessness. Exemplary action. Unwavering devotion. Conspicuous gallantry. Extraordinary heroism. The words enshrined with the Medal of Honor citations capture the best of what it means to be human.
By serving, remembering, supporting, and honoring the sacrifice of the Recipients, by sharing the stories and values inherent in them, we understand the responsibility and potential within each one of us to inspire the world.
Staff Sergeant David Bellavia (Ret), author of “House to House” was the most recent recipient of this great honor. Today, three additional extraordinary Americans will be honored.
Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe
Sgt. Cashe was initially awarded the Silver Star. However, when his commanding officer (Lt. Col Gary Brito) was given the full facts of Sgt. Cashe’s actions that day, Brito and others spent the next sixteen years advocating for the upgrade to the Medal of Honor. Sgt. Cashe’s actions that day exemplify everything the Medal of Honor stands for.
Staff Sgt. Douglas Dodge was dazed and sick to his stomach, still in shock after a roadside bomb blast slammed him and other soldiers against the ceiling of their 27-ton armored vehicle. He had regained consciousness and forced his way to safety, but his friends were still inside — screaming and on fire.
Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who had been riding in the front of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, appeared out of the darkness. He was wearing a helmet, body armor and boots, but little else. His camouflage uniform, sopped in fuel, had begun to melt away.
“Dodge!” Cashe yelled. “Where are the boys?”
The desperate moments that followed became the subject of a years-long Army investigation — mired by internal conflict — to determine whether Cashe, who reached into the burning vehicle at least six times to rescue those trapped, merited the military’s preeminent distinction for his courage and selflessness in Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005.
Despite the severity of his burns, Sgt. Cashe refused to be evacuated from the battlefield until all his men were. Even from the burn unit at BAMC, Sgt. Cashe kept working to rally his men, even discussing plans to go on future hunting trips. Three weeks after that battle, Sgt. Cashe succumbed to infection from his wounds and passed away on November 8, 2005.
"He loved those kids with his heart and soul," said Col. Jimmy Hathaway, SFC Alwyn Cashe's former company commander. Of the coming Medal of Honor ceremony, he added: "Tomorrow is about getting it right."https://t.co/45ysysZZnW— Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe) December 15, 2021
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz
Celiz was born in South Carolina in 1986 and enlisted in the Army in September 2007. He was selected to serve with the 75th Ranger Regiment in 2013, and in July 2018 was wounded in Paktia province, Afghanistan, by small arms fire. He was evacuated to the nearest medical treatment facility where he died, according to the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund. He was on his fifth deployment with the 75th Ranger Regiment when he was killed.
“Chris was a national treasure who led his Rangers with passion, competence, and an infectiously positive attitude no matter the situation,” Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, then the commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, said in an Army release. “He will be greatly missed.”
As many he served with noted, Celiz was one of the “hardest workers” in the battalion.
“Celiz was a top-notch dude,” agreed the former special operations officer who served with him. “I can’t say enough good things about him. He didn’t talk a whole lot but he was always happy. No matter how bad things sucked, he always had a dumb smile on his face and it drove guys crazy.”
“He was one of the humblest men I ever met. Where others would fall apart, you could lean on him to pull through.”
Master Sergeant Earl D. Plumlee
As with Sgt. Alwyn Cashe, Master Sergeant Plumlee’s award took an Act of Congress to be conferred upon him. The initial wait was, in part, due to a few Army officers who were of the mindset that Plumlee was just having an ordinary day on August 28, 2103. Except that day and his actions were FAR from ordinary.
Ten insurgents wearing Afghan National Army uniforms and suicide vests poured through the breach. Staff Sergeant Plumlee and five Special Operations members, intent upon defending the base, mounted two vehicles and raced toward the site of the detonation. The vehicles, now no longer under cover, came under effective enemy fire from the front and right. Using his body to shield the driver from enemy fire, he instinctively reacted, exiting the vehicle while simultaneously drawing his pistol and engaging an insurgent to the vehicle’s right. Without cover and with complete disregard for his own safety, he advanced on the superior enemy force engaging multiple insurgents with only his pistol. Upon reaching cover, he killed two insurgents, one with a well-placed grenade and the other by detonating the insurgent’s suicide vest using precision sniper fire. Again disregarding his own safety, he left cover and advanced alone against the superior enemy force engaging several combatants at close range, including an insurgent whose suicide vest exploded a mere seven meters from his position.
The initial truck bomb attack had left a 60 ft breach in the perimeter wall of the base. Which made it immediately apparent that it wasn’t going to be an ordinary day. Throughout the battle, Plumlee ended up saving four soldiers, all while ignoring his own injuries that led to nine months of rehab.
“The strongest emotion I had from that day was the last time we were pushing down and had really gotten organized we were moving as a really aggressive, synced up stack, moving right into the chaos,” Plumlee said. “It was probably the proudest moment of my career, just to be with those guys, at that time, on that day was just awesome.”
If it weren’t for Master Sgt. Plumlee’s actions that day, it would’ve been highly likely that FOB Ghazni would’ve been overrun.
“It’s not exaggeration when I say they saved FOB Ghazni,” the Special Forces soldier said. “If they would have arrived 10 seconds later than they did, the insurgents would have been in the more densely populated part of FOB Ghazni.”
Today, we honor three Americans, soldiers who stood and stand in the breach for us all. Our friends at Valor Guardians said it the best.
These men truly lived and exemplify the mottos of their respective units.
Cashe, of the 15th Infantry Regiment, “Can Do”,
Plumlee, “De Opresso Liber” (Latin for “to liberate the oppressed”), and
Celiz, “Rangers Lead the Way”
We are thankful and so grateful to know these men, these extraordinary Americans, exist.
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Feature Photo Credit: U.S. Army via AUSA.org