During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with the rescue of Dilip Joseph, an American doctor taken hostage by the Taliban, in Afghanistan on Dec. 8-9, 2012, by Navy SEAL Team 6.
The Medal of Honor citation for Senior Chief Edward Byers Jr. reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Hostage Rescue Force Team Member in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 8 to 9 December 2012.
“As the rescue force approached the target building, an enemy sentry detected them and darted inside to alert his fellow captors. The sentry quickly reemerged, and the lead assaulter attempted to neutralize him.
“Chief Byers with his team sprinted to the door of the target building. As the primary breacher, Chief Byers stood in the doorway fully exposed to enemy fire while ripping down six layers of heavy blankets fastened to the inside ceiling and walls to clear a path for the rescue force.
“The first assaulter pushed his way through the blankets, and was mortally wounded by enemy small-arms fire from within.
“Chief Byers, completely aware of the imminent threat, fearlessly rushed into the room and engaged an enemy guard aiming an AK- 47 at him. He then tackled another adult male who had darted towards the corner of the room.
“During the ensuing hand-to-hand struggle, Chief Byers confirmed the man was not the hostage and engaged him.
“As other rescue team members called out to the hostage, Chief Byers heard a voice respond in English and raced toward it. He jumped atop the American hostage and shielded him from the high volume of fire within the small room.
“While covering the hostage with his body, Chief Byers immobilized another guard with his bare hands, and restrained the guard until a teammate could eliminate him.
“His bold and decisive actions under fire saved the lives of the hostage and several of his teammates. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of near certain death, Chief Petty Officer Byers reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
The “first assaulter” referenced in Byers’ citation was 28-year-old Chief Nicolas Checque. Just days before being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama on Feb. 29, 2016, Byers spoke of Checque and the mission that took his teammate’s life with USA Today:
“First off, the loss of Nick Checque is a tragedy,” Byers said. “However, he died a warrior’s death. And that night was a success in everyone’s mind because we brought back an American hostage. That was our mission; it was a hostage rescue.
“So the no-fail aspect of that was we have to bring him back alive. And in doing so, Nic gave his life. I would like to think that if he was here right now, and he was asked to do it over again, he would. That’s what we do. That’s what we sign up to do.”