A life member of Hawthorne’s Veterans of Foreign War post will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian held hostage in Afghanistan in December 2012.
VFW Post 2313 member, Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward Byers will be the 11th living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan.
Byers commendation cities “his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan, December 8-9, 2012.”
That rescue would be that of Dilip Joseph, a medical director for a faith-based Christian group that was establishing medical facilities in remote parts of Afghanistan. He was captured for ransom, along with his driver and translator.
Information was received four days later that the doctor may be moved into Pakistan and U.S. commanders organized a rescue team.
Byers along with his Navy SEAL unit walked four hours through the mountains to the Taliban compound where Joseph was reported to be held. A Navy report would state, “Trading personal security for speed of action was inherent to the success of this rescue mission.”
Joseph would be held in that Afghan mountain retreat made of stone and mud. Outside dogs barked and sheep bleated. Two of his captors would go outside to investigate the noise.
Only 80 feet from the building, a Taliban guard would spot the SEAL team. The forward-most SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque would shoot the guard who ran back into the shack. Checque followed and was shot.
Byers would be second through that door. Here he tackled an enemy fighter – adjusted his night vision goggles as his teammate tried to locate Joseph.
“Is Dilip Joseph here?” the teammate shouted, according to Joseph’s account. When the doctor identified himself, Dyers laid on top of him to protect him from the fighting. Amid the gunfire, Joseph claims that Byers calmly asked if he had bee fed, if he could walk and if he had been mistreated.
While asking those important questions, Byers pinned the last Taliban fighter to the mud and stone wall, allowing his fellow team members to shoot and kill him, per a Navy report.
One Navy SEAL was dead (Checque who went through the door), a doctor had been saved and five Taliban fighters killed.
Joseph would be “sandwiched” between two SEAL team members as they waited for a helicopter that was over 10 minutes out.
Byers and others would perform CPR on their fallen comrade, Checque, during the ride but he was pronounced dead after landing at Bagram Airfield.
“The strength of the Naval Special Warfare community is in its exceptional people. Senior Chief Ed Byers’ actions on the battlefield reflect the highest ideals of our profession: bravery, selfless dedication to duty and above all, the highest level of commitment to protect the lives of others and the freedom for which our nation stands,” said Rear Admiral Brian Losey, commander of Naval Special Warfare. “We are humbled by Senior Chief Byers’ incredible example of service and are proud to call him teammate.”
The Medal of Honor will be added to Byers’ extensive awards that include five Bronze Stars with valor; two Purple Hearts; the Joint Service Commendation Medal with valor; three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals (one with valor); two Combat Action Ribbons; three Presidential Unit Citations; two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards; two Navy Unit Commendations and five Good Conduct Medals.
Byers’ entered the Navy in September of 1998 where he attended boot camp and hospital corpsman school in Illinois. In 2002 he attended the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course, graduating from Class 242 and completed the Special Operations Combat Medic Course in 2003.
He has completed eight overseas deployments and seven combat tours.
Rick Isom, member of the VFW Post 2313, remembers when Byers and his teammates came into the post.
“They were training on Mount Grant. Among the group, three of them signed up for life member status with us. The post continued to keep in contact with him and his teammates, sending them support and supplies when they were in Afghanistan.”
A photo of Byers’ and his SEAL teammates hangs inside VFW Post 2313 in “America’s Patriotic Home”.
On Feb. 29, the members of that post will watch in anticipation as one of their own is awarded the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama.