SAN DIEGO -- A San Diego-based U.S. Navy SEAL who helped rescue an American doctor held hostage in Afghanistan was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony Monday.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr., 36, was a member of the team that rescued Dr. Dilip Joseph after he and his driver and Afghan interpreter were abducted in the Qarghah'i District of Laghman Province in December 2012, according to the White House and the Navy.
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) February 29, 2016
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 29, 2016
"Trading personal security for speed of action was inherent to the success of this rescue mission," according to a Navy statement. "Each assaulter in the rescue force volunteered for this operation with full appreciation for the risks they were to undertake."
A fellow team member was shot while entering the small, single-room building where Joseph was being held. But Byers continued inside, became involved in hand-to-hand combat with an armed guard, then shielded the American hostage from gunfire.
Byers spotted another enemy fighter and was able to pin him to the wall while still covering the hostage with his body. He restrained the combatant long enough that a teammate was able to shoot him.
Byers, who is also certified as a paramedic, then attempted to assist his wounded colleague while en route to Bagram Airfield, according to the Navy. However, the team member who had been shot was pronounced dead following the roughly 40-minute flight.
"Chief Petty Officer Byers displayed superior gallantry, extraordinary heroism at grave personal risk, dedication to his teammates and calm tactical leadership while liberating Dr. Dilip Joseph from captivity," according to the Navy statement. "He is unquestionably deserving of the Medal of Honor."
Byers is the sixth Navy SEAL in history to be awarded the Medal of Honor and will be the 11th living service member to receive it.
He is believed to be the first service member to ever receive the Medal of Honor for actions while serving with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as SEAL Team 6, The Washington Post reported. Defense officials declined to confirm that but said that Byers is the first living SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, according to the newspaper.
An Ohio native, Byers entered the Navy in September 1998, attending boot camp and Hospital Corpsman School in Great Lakes, Illinois. He served at Great Lakes Naval Hospital, and then with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
In 2002, Byers attended the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course and completed the Special Operations Combat Medic course in 2003.
Byers has completed 11 overseas deployments with nine combat tours.
Byers' other various honors include the Bronze Star Medal with Combat V device, two Purple Hearts and the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor device. He is set to graduate from Norwich University with a bachelor's degree in strategic studies and defense analysis this year.