Lawmakers push for first African American to receive Medal of Honor for wars in Iraq or Afghanistan

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Members of Congress pushed to have U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe receive the first Medal of Honor awarded to a Black man for services during the Iraq War.

Cashe originally received the Silver Star Medal for his actions on Oct. 17, 2005, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D- Fla., Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, and Michael Waltz, R- Fla., petitioned the U.S. Defense Department to advance his award.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper officially approved the proposal earlier this week.

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The law currently requires “that the Medal of Honor be awarded within five years after the date of the act justifying the award” – meaning that Congress would have to remove the time restraint in order for Cashe to receive the new award.

Cashe died Nov. 8, 2005 after suffering second- and third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body after a roadside bomb exploded Oct. 17, 2005, in Samara, Iraq, hitting his vehicle.

Though he was not hurt in the initial explosion, he reportedly returned to the burning vehicle to save others trapped inside, according to the Military Times.

He reportedly pulled six soldiers out of the burning vehicle, despite his fuel-soaked uniform, which ignited.

Cashe died at 35 in a San Antonio military hospital, 22 days after the incident.

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Three other U.S soldiers also died in the attack, including Staff Sgt. George Alexander Jr., 34, of Killeen Texas; Sgt. Michael Robertson, 28, of Houston; and Spc. Darren Howe, 21, of Beatrice, Neb., according to the Department of Defense.

Cashe reportedly survived a previous tour in Iraq in 2003, and served in the Gulf War. He is survived by a wife and daughter.

“After giving the nomination careful consideration, I agree that SFC Cashe’s actions merit award of the Medal of Honor,” Esper said in a letter to Congress this week.

“Congress must waive this limit,” he continued. “Once legislation is enacted authorizing the President of the United States to award, if he so chooses, the Medal of Honor to SFC Cashe, I will provide my endorsement to the President.”

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Esper’s letter of request was sent to the Committee on Armed Services in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, requesting their approval.

Cashe would be the first Black man in the U.S. war in Iraq, and in the war in Afghanistan, to receive a Medal of Honor.

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