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Fallen Iraq War Soldier on Track to Be First Black Medal of Honor Recipient since Vietnam

A U.S. soldier who sacrificed his life to save his comrades from their burning vehicle after it was struck by roadside bomb in Iraq is soon set to become the first Black servicemember to receive the U.S. government's most prestigious award for valor since the Vietnam War after a years-long battle for recognition, Newsweek has learned.

Two sources familiar with the process have confirmed to Newsweek that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is the first Black Pentagon chief, has signed off on Army Sergeant 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe receiving the Medal of Honor. A third source aware of the proceedings has confirmed that the White House is working to set a date for the award ceremony and that Cashe's family has been notified.

Cashe, 35, was serving with Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division outside Samarra city in central Iraq on October 17, 2005, when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device that tore through the BFV and ignited its fuel cell.

"Without regard for his personal safety," his posthumous Silver Star award citation reads, Cashe pulled the driver from the vehicle after having already suffered minor injuries, and then rushed back inside three times to extract six trapped soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter as his own fuel-soaked uniform caught fire.

Cashe suffered 2nd and 3rd-degree burns over some 72% of his body and ultimately succumbed to his injuries about three weeks later at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

The translator and four soldiers ultimately died from their wounds as well, but the rest survived. Cashe was described as having "stayed a hero through it all."

"Sergeant First Class Cashe's heroic actions saved the lives of six of his beloved soldiers. He is truly deserving of this award," the citation reads. "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."


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