WASHINGTON, March 1, 2016 —
When President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward C. Byers Jr. at the White House yesterday, he said Byers could be defined by his deep sense of humility and as someone who doesn’t seek the spotlight.
Byers, who received the military’s highest honor for his gallantry in December 2012 in the rescue of an American hostage held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan, stepped out of the White House after the ceremony to address the media. He thanked his family, friends and special operations teammates for their support.
“Everything we do is as a team,” he said. “If it wasn’t for that team, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”
Being a Navy SEAL and doing what he loves “is truly the best job in the world,” he said.
Recognizing Friend’s Sacrifice
But there was someone else the softly spoken Byers wanted to acknowledge: his teammate and fellow Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque, who was the rescue operation’s team leader.
Checque was mortally wounded in the ensuing Taliban attack that cold night in a remote building on an Afghanistan mountain, and he died of his injuries shortly after the successful rescue was complete.
“To my teammate, brother and friend, Nicolas Checque, this award is truly his,” Byers said. “He was an American hero and the hero of that operation. He died a warrior, [and] he died to bring home another American. I believe our nation owes him a debt of gratitude.”
As a warrior, Byers said, Checque selflessly carried out the toughest of missions. He thanked his teammate’s family for “giving their son to this country to help protect this [nation’s] freedoms.”
One Step at a Time
Byers told reporters he doesn’t know how long, or even how, receiving the Medal of Honor will change his life. He plans to take it one step at a time, he added.
“Today has been a very memorable day,” he said. “[It] is something I’ll never forget. I look forward to some much-needed time with family, friends and teammates. We're going to celebrate the lives of the brothers who have fallen protecting our freedoms.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)