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Almost nine years after his death, the Family, friends and fellow Soldiers of Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe are continuing their efforts to see him recognized for his sacrifice.
Cashe was wounded while on patrol in Samarra, Iraq, in October 2005, when the Bradley Fighting Vehicle he and his crew were traveling in was hit by an IED.
The explosion ignited the Bradley's fuel cell, severed the rear ramp cable and drenched Cashe in fuel. Soon, Cashe was on fire, his uniform burning and his flesh searing.
Despite that, Cashe helped to remove all six Soldiers from the vehicle and also the body of an interpreter killed by the IED, all while under small arms fire. Through it all, his body continued to burn.
"Again and again, he continues to go back, soaked in fuel, on fire, with no regard for his own safety to get everybody out," said Maj. Jimmy Hathaway, then Cashe's company commander with A Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.
After the scene had been cleared, Cashe insisted on remaining behind until all of his Soldiers had been evacuated.
"As we were fighting the fight and clearing the scene, he wouldn't leave," Hathaway said. He wanted to make sure all of his guys were out first even though he was burned over most of his body. He was still more concerned about his guys getting out than he was."
A few weeks later, on Nov. 8, 2005, Cashe died at San Antonio Military Medical Center in Texas.
Cashe was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions, but efforts to see Cashe awarded the Medal of Honor have been underway since then.
"A couple of years went by and we decided to initiate the Medal of Honor submission," said Col. Gary Brito, Cashe's former battalion commander. "Part of that was because of the impact and the magnitude of what Sgt. 1st Class Cashe did was pieced together over time through witness statements from some of the Soldiers who had survived."
Brito has submitted the Medal of Honor request several times, and continues to work with the Army Awards Branch to refine the submission.
"The process, like any Army process, is not instant," Brito said. "It's not just turning in a form and it getting processed. This is bigger than that. ... The Army Awards Branch has been extremely helpful with screening the documents to tell me what's needed or what's missing."
As of yet, Brito said the submission has not met Medal of Honor criteria, and said he does not know if it ever will.
"I don't know that there's much more I can do," Brito said. "I've asked others who have provided witness statements so far to look at them and see if there's anything else that can be recalled that was left off before. I'm not going to have anything fabricated and I'm not going to violate the integrity of the award, and I don't want to bring any dishonor on Sgt. 1st Class Cashe or his Family.
"Some will say that maybe the incident doesn't qualify because there wasn't enough direct fire or what have you. I'm not sure about that, but over time as I had a chance to reflect, (I knew) this is something I wanted to pursue."
Brito is not alone in his fight, however, as thousands have turned to social media to show their support for Cashe. A Facebook group called "SFC Alwyn C. Cashe Deserves the Medal of Honor" has more than 3,200 members, and numerous Soldiers who served with Cashe, including Hathaway, have continued to campaign for Cashe to be awarded the nation's highest honor.
"He was always walking around at midnight or 11:30 to check on his Soldiers," Brito said. "That's the type of leader he was - caring at all times. That really resonated down to the Soldiers and quite frankly, the outpouring you're seeing on social media is reflective of that."
Both Brito and Hathaway said that while they remember Cashe for the actions that cost him his life, they also remember a leader who cared passionately for his fellow Soldiers.
"He cared about his people, more than anything else," Hathaway said. "Soldiers will do a lot for you if they know you care - and he cared."
"You'll get an NCO who will do his job as a platoon sergeant or section leader or squad leader - that'll happen," Brito said. "Because you're wearing an Army uniform, you do your job. But, some, because they care for their Soldiers, will go above and beyond. I could see that in Sgt. 1st Class Cashe."
Silver Star citation for Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe
The following text is taken verbatim from Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe's Silver Star citation:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Sergeant First Class Alwyn C. Cashe, United States Army, for exceptionally valorous achievement following an improvised explosive device explosion on 17 October 2005, while serving with Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
Sergeant First Class Cashe's disregard for his own safety proved evident when he saved the lives of six fellow soldiers despite his serious injuries. His bravery is in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, Task Force DRAGON, the SLEDGEHAMMER Brigade, Task Force LIBERTY, and the United States Army.
Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe heroically distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of the enemy of the United States as a Platoon Sergeant in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company (HARDOCK), 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment stationed at Forward Operating Base MACKENZIE, Iraq, on 17 October 2005.
On the evening of 17 October 2005, Sergeant First Class Cashe's heroic actions saved the lives of six of his fellow soldiers. At approximately 1920 hours, 1st Platoon of Alpha Company, 1-15 Infantry departed FOB MACKENZIE to conduct a route clearance in the city of Daliaya, Iraq.
Along Route JAIME, the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicle, of which Sergeant First Class Cashe was gunner having just moved from a NMC vehicle, struck a victim detonated pressure-switch IED at grid MC 25357243. The blast ignited the fuel cell on the vehicle causing fuel to spew everywhere. The vehicle came to a stop and immediately erupted in flames.
Sergeant First Class Cashe was initially slightly injured and drenched with fuel. Despite his condition, he bravely managed to get out of the gunner's hatch, crawl down the BFV and assist the driver out of the driver's hatch.
The driver had been burned and Sergeant First Class Cashe extinguished his flames. The following minutes were crucial. Six soldiers and a translator were in the back of the Bradley. Flames had engulfed the entire vehicle from the bottom and were coming out of every portal. The squad leader inside the vehicle managed to open the troop hatch door to help the soldiers escape.
Without regard for his personal safety, Sergeant First Class Cashe rushed to the back of the vehicle, reaching into the hot flames and started pulling out his soldiers. The flames gripped his fuel soaked uniform. Flames quickly spread all over his body. Despite the terrible pain, Sergeant First Class Cashe placed the injured soldier on the ground and returned to the burning vehicle to retrieve another burning soldier; all the while, he was still on fire. A crew from a trail Bradley arrived within moments and assisted with CASEVAC.
During all this and with severe burns, Sergeant First Class Cashe bravely continued to take control of the chaos. Within minutes, the company First Sergeant was on the scene and began to evacuate the seriously injured soldiers. One of which was Sergeant First Class Cashe. In the end, the national translator was killed in action, and 10 soldiers were injured. Seven of the ten were very seriously injured.
Sergeant First Class Cashe stayed a hero through it all. His injuries were the worst as he suffered from 2d and 3d degree burns over 72% of his body. Sergeant First Class Cashe's heroic actions saved the lives of six of his beloved soldiers. He is truly deserving of this award. His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, Task Force LIBERTY and the United States Army.