SEAL’s Medal of Honor well deserved

Published 10:22 pm Friday, March 4, 2016

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

Many of them train and are based just minutes from where we live, but we don’t notice them. That’s the way Navy SEALs prefer it. Their credo is, “I do not advertise the nature of my work nor seek recognition for my actions.”

So it was highly unusual to see a large group of SEALs gathered in a room at the White House this week. They were there to see one of their own, Edward Byers, receive the Medal of Honor.

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It all started in 2012, in Afghanistan. An American doctor was driving down a rural highway. He was there to provide health care for needy Afghan people.

Suddenly, Taliban gunmen surrounded his vehicle, bound him and took him deep into the mountains, where he despaired of life itself. His captors told him, “The Americans are not coming for you.” His captors were wrong.

The SEALs came in by helicopter, under the cover of night. After hiking four hours through mountainous terrain, they came to the building where the American doctor was being held. When they got within a hundred feet, a guard saw them, and the bullets started flying.

The official Navy citation tells us what happened next:


“Chief Byers, with his team, sprinted to the door of the target building. As the primary breacher, Chief Byers stood in the doorway fully exposed to the enemy fire while ripping down six layers of heavy blankets fastened to the inside ceiling and walls to clear a path for the rescue force.

“The first assaulter pushed his way through the blankets and was mortally wounded by enemy small arms fire from within. Chief Byers, completely aware of the imminent threat, fearlessly rushed into the room and engaged the enemy guard aiming an AK-47 at him. He then tackled another adult male who had darted towards the corner of the room. During the ensuing hand-to-hand struggle, Chief Byers confirmed the man was not the hostage and engaged him.

“As the other rescue team members called out to the hostage, Chief Byers heard a voice respond in English and raced toward it. He jumped atop the American hostage and shielded him from the high volume of fire within the small room. While covering the hostage with his body, Chief Byers immobilized another guard with his bare hands, and restrained the guard until a teammate could eliminate him.”

“His bold and decisive actions under fire saved the lives of the hostage and several of his teammates. By his undaunted courage and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of near-certain death, Chief Petty Officer Byers reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”


The American doctor, who is a father of four, returned safely to his family in America. But the first SEAL through the door, Petty Officer First Class Nicolas Checque, was killed.

Senior Chief Byers administered CPR during the 40-minute helicopter ride back to the base, but to no avail. Checque died from his wounds. His family, in Monroeville, Pa., misses him dearly.

This is the sacrifice made for us by our military forces and military families. Tonight, as you put your head down, say a prayer for those who are deployed around the world, keeping you safe.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.