A Navy SEAL who helped rescue an American hostage in Afghanistan will be the nation's next Medal of Honor recipient, the White House announced on Tuesday.
Edward Byers, a senior chief in the Navy, will be the 11th living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. The ceremony will take place at the White House on Feb. 29.
The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest award for valor in action, and the White House typically goes into great detail about the actions leading to the award. But because of the sensitive nature of special operations, provided few details in the announcement.
The White House said Byers, 36, was part of a team that rescued a civilian hostage on December 8-9, 2012.
An unclassified summary provided by Defense Department officials says Byers participated in the rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph, who was abducted along with his driver and Afghan interpreter three days earlier.
Joseph, who has written a book about his abduction, was being held in a small, one-room building in a remote portion of Laghman Province in the eastern part of Afghanistan. Byers was part of a rescue team that traveled for four hours across mountainous terrain to make its assault on the compound where the doctor was held.
The summary said that a guard spotted the rescue team when it moved within 25 meters of the building. Byers was the second person on the team to reach the door. As he tried to rip down the blankets that served as a door, the first solider to arrive at the building pushed his way through the doorway and was immediately shot. Byers also entered the building and engaged a struggling armed guard.
Once inside, Byers heard an unknown voice speaking English, the summary said. " He immediately leaped across the room and selflessly flung his body on top of the American hostage, shielding him from the continued rounds being fired across the room.
"Almost simultaneously, Chief Byers identified an additional enemy fighter directly behind Dr. Joseph. While covering the hostage with his body, Chief Byers was able to pin the enemy combatant to the wall with his hand around the enemy's throat," the summary said. Byers restrained the man until another SEAL was able to shoot him dead, the summary said.
Once the doctor was moved to a helicopter landing zone, Byers, a certified paramedic, assisted in providing medical aid to his wounded colleague, who died of his wounds. The dead SEAL has previously been identified as Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, 28, of Monroeville, Pa.
The summary said that Byers displayed "extraordinary heroism at grave personal risk, dedication to his teammates, and calm tactical leadership while liberating Dr. Dilip Joseph from captivity. He is unquestionably deserving of the Medal of Honor."
Byers grew up in Ohio, graduating from high school in the small town of Tontogany, Ohio. He joined the Navy about a year later and has completed eight overseas deployments with seven combat tours.
The White House says Byers has been assigned to various SEAL teams during his time in the Navy. His list of awards and decorations is extensive. It includes five awards of the Bronze Star Medal and two awards of the Purple Heart.
He will graduate this year from Norwich University in Vermont with a bachelor's degree in strategic studies and defense analysis.