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News | Dec. 20, 2021

Austin Honors 3 Medal of Honor Recipients

By David Vergun DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III honored Medal of Honor recipients Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe, Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher A. Celiz, and Army Master Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee today at a Hall of Heroes induction ceremony at Conmy Hall at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia.

President Joe Biden awarded the nation's highest military honor to the three during a White House ceremony yesterday. Cashe and Celiz were honored posthumously, while Plumlee received the award in person.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe

Austin said Cashe's parents taught him the value of hard work. Cashe's father would say, "Do it like you're putting your name on it."

That's something Cashe would later instill in his soldiers, Austin said.

A male service member has his arm around the shoulder of another male service member.
Ryan and Cashe
Then-Army 1st Lt. James "Jimmy" Ryan, left, poses with Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe during their deployment to Forward Operating Base McKenzie in Samarra, Iraq. Ryan served as a platoon leader in Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, where Cashe was platoon sergeant.
Photo By: Courtesy photo provided by retired Army Maj. James Ryan
VIRIN: 211217-O-D0439-002C

One night in October of 2005, Cashe was in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that rolled onto an improvised explosive device and burst into flames near Samarra, Iraq. Cashe managed to escape from the commander's hatch, but his soldiers were still inside the burning vehicle, the secretary said.

Cashe went back into the burning vehicle and removed the driver.He then removed four more soldiers, but two were still missing. So, he went back — again and again and again — and Cashe pulled his men out of the flames, Austin said.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher A. Celiz

Celiz was an Army Ranger, who mentored and bonded with his fellow soldiers, Austin said.  

When his Rangers came under Taliban attack in Afghanistan, Celiz dodged bullets so he could get to a heavy-weapons system. That gave his team time to find a safe place for evacuation, he said.

A smiling man holds an ax over his shoulder as he kneels on the ground; tall trees are in the background.
Christopher Celiz
Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz helps clear debris with fellow soldiers following a hurricane.
Photo By: Photo courtesy of Katie Celiz
VIRIN: 211217-O-D0439-003

When his weapons weren't enough to hold off the enemy, Celiz used his own body as a shield to protect his team, Austin said.

As the evacuation helicopter was lifting off, enemy fire found Celiz. He knew he was wounded, but, in one of his last acts, he waved for the aircraft to depart without him.

Army Master Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee

In 2013 at Forward Operating Base Ghazni in Afghanistan, Plumlee's unit was attacked, and the enemy breached his forward operating base.

"Over and over, he advanced on the insurgents, firing whatever weapon that he could get his hands on — a rifle, a pistol, a grenade. Over and over, he put his life on the line. Over and over, he came face-to-face with the enemy — some just seven meters away," Austin said.

Aan holds a coffee pot over some coals as a dog watches; tall trees are in the background.
Earl Plumlee
Army Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee makes coffee from a river with his dog, Pepper.
Photo By: Photo courtesy of Plumlee family
VIRIN: 211217-O-D0439-004C

"There's a common thread among the stories of these men and so many other Medal of Honor recipients. In their acts of heroism, there was no time. No time to blink. No time to breathe. And, certainly no time to think about being brave. And yet they were brave. Brave beyond all expectation," he said.