|wishing we |
Gunfire ripped through the air and suicide-vest explosions rattled the ground as then-Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Patrick Payne peered inside the burning building where dozens of Islamic State-held prisoners remained locked in cells.
He knew he needed to move quickly or the hostages would burn to death, the longtime Army special operator said. He entered the building, exposing himself to machine gun fire, and with a set of bolt cutters, freed the prisoners from the jail in the northern Iraqi city of Hawija.
For his actions in the Oct. 22, 2015, raid, which ended with the first American service member killed by ISIS since the U.S. return to Iraq in late 2014, Payne, now a sergeant major, was presented the Medal of Honor on Friday by President Donald Trump. The award is an upgrade of the Distinguished Service Cross that Payne was initially awarded in 2017. He is just the second living service member to receive the nation’s highest honor for combat valor for actions in Iraq.
In an interview Wednesday, Payne, 36, struggled to describe his feelings about receiving the Medal of Honor, which he said should be credited to the troops with whom he served on the battlefield that day and the dozens of mentors who shaped him into one of the Army’s most elite special operators.
“It's a different feeling,” said the veteran of 17 combat deployments. “It’s hard to describe. You hear stories of other Medal of Honor recipients. And for me, I don’t consider myself a recipient, I consider myself a guardian of this medal, and the legacies of my teammates will live on with this Medal of Honor.”
That includes the legacy of Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who was killed by enemy fire during the raid, and who posthumously received the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest honor for valor, for his own actions that day.
Payne’s unit — a task force of elite members of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and special forces from the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga — spent more than a week preparing for the hostage rescue mission behind enemy lines. By nature, hostage rescues are among the most dangerous missions that U.S. troops execute.
It was not Payne’s first hostage rescue mission. Twelve years earlier as a young private, he had participated in the operation to free Pfc. Jessica Lynch from her Iraqi military captors. There were other hostage rescues in between, he acknowledged Wednesday.
The task force was alerted ISIS had dug new graves at the prison compound, where some 70 hostages were being held in Hawija. At that point, Payne said, quick action became critical.
The firefight broke out immediately as the CH-47 Chinook helicopters dropped off Payne and the other U.S. and Kurdish soldiers under the cover of darkness. The teams split into two forces, sending Payne into the first prison building, where 37 hostages were held.
The firefight grew heavier at the other building as Payne prepared to enter the first prison. They heard over the radio that a U.S. service member was hit — Wheeler. Payne recalled the Kurdish fighters struggling with the news that one of the Americans had been shot. But the mission had to continue, he said.
“Our partner force needed some strong inspiration and leadership, and that's when one of my teammates looked them right in the eyes and said, ‘Follow me’,” Payne recalled. “I mean, it was kind of one of those moments, you're like, ‘Wow. This is pretty awesome.’ And at that point, you know that personal courage is contagious on the battlefield.
“Once you’re able to control your fears, that’s a bridge to personal courage.”
The team entered the first building and freed the hostages with bolt cutters. The prisoners’ eyes lit up, Payne recalled. Some cried.
Meanwhile, a fire had broken at the other building where the battle continued. Payne made his way there.
“I told my teammate, ‘Hey, let’s get in the fight,’” he recalled. “It was just, ‘Hey, let’s go.’”
Payne and another soldier made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the burning building from the roof. Suicide bombs shook the building as he tried to find an entry point.
With cover from his comrades, Payne entered the building with the bolt cutters, freeing hostages from several cages.
“That’s when we hear over the radio that the building is starting to collapse,” he said. “So, we're being shot at, the building’s on fire, and it’s starting to collapse. We have hostages still inside and part of our partner forces inside the building, too.”
Mission leadership called for a mandatory evacuation. The team worked to get the hostages and Kurdish forces moving out of the building. Payne stood, pointing the way out “basically like a third base coach,” he said.
He noticed one hostage, a large man, was not making any effort to flee.
“He had basically given up on life,” Payne said. “I basically grabbed him by the back of the collar and pulled him out of that building.”
“He saved multiple hostages, and he was the last man to leave,” Trump said Friday, describing the battle that left some 20 ISIS fighters dead. “He wouldn't leave no matter what they said, no matter who ordered him to do it. He wouldn't do it. He was the last one out.”
Medal of Honor recipients all seem to have the same humble attitudes, of their valor and of their recipience.
Ho. Lee. Crap!!
I lost all my weapons in a boating, umm, accident.
|No double standards|
So the building is on fire, they are shooting at it, there are bombs going off. What else could go wrong?
And I thought Trump hated US soldiers.
After reading that, maybe he should get two medals.
And sdy, my monitor is getting foggy, could you come clean it up?
"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it....While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it"
- Judge Learned Hand, May 1944
Proverbs 27:17 - As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
| Get my pies|
outta the oven!
Made even more so by his new Army WWII throwback Class A uniform! The best looking uniform the US Army had, so glad to see it back now.
That is classy! There's a whole lot going on in that picture, all of it approved.
Makes you proud to be part of the human race, eh?
Now THAT's what a real hero looks like.
|Web Clavin Extraordinaire|
Hey, look, a real hero. Not a grocery store clerk or a barista who valiantly serves us during times of Covid.
Chuck Norris put the laughter in "manslaughter"
Educating the youth of America, one declension at a time.
Tremendous deserved honor!
I was very happy also to see the California National Guard helicopter crews awarded the DFC for rescues in the wildfires
|always with a hat or sunscreen|
I am so glad when such an exalted honor like this was not presented to him posthumously. Men and women of this caliber deserve to live beyond their deeds.This message has been edited. Last edited by: bald1,
Certifiable member of the gun toting, septuagenarian, bucket list workin', crazed retiree, bald is beautiful club!
USN (RET), COTEP #192
I believe this soldier is the first living Delta Force MoH recipient.
What an accomplishment. It's good to know there's still men like this out there.
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