Biden awards Medals of Honor to three soldiers. Here’s a closer look at their lives

President Biden awarded the Medal of Honor Thursday at the White House to three soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two of the men died protecting their comrades, and were represented by family. Now, through interviews with those family members and the living recipient, and portions of Thursday’s East Room ceremony, we hear their stories.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Biden awarded Medals of Honor today to three soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two of the men died protecting their comrades.

    Now, through interviews with family members and the living recipient and portions of today's East Room ceremony, we hear their stories.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: Good afternoon.

    The late Sergeant 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, late Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Celiz, Master Sergeant Earl Plumlee, our nation's newest recipients of our highest military award, the Medal of Honor.

    October 17,2005, Sergeant Cashe was commanding a Bradley Fighting Vehicle on night patrol in Iraq. An improvised explosive device detonated, igniting the vehicle's fuel and engulfing it in flames.

    The sergeant extracted himself and without hesitation and turned back to the vehicle to help free the driver.

    He pushed his own pain aside to return to the burning vehicle as it was — and pulled four soldiers free.

    The sergeant saw there were still two soldiers and their interpreter unaccounted for. So, he went back into the inferno for a third time and got everyone out of that inferno.

  • Kasinal Cashe White, Sister:

    My name is Kasinal Cashe White, and I'm one of the older sisters of Sergeant 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe.

    He's been gone 16 years. And we started this in 2007 to upgrade his medal. This means everything in the world that the stories that we have heard from his battle buddies, it's all been validated. What he did was heroic.

  • Joe Biden:

    Sergeant 1st Class Cashe is now the seventh individual to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the first African American to receive it since the Vietnam War.

  • Kasinal Cashe White:

    I like to just think that he's a soldier that happened to be African American, that has earned the Medal of Honor.

  • Joe Biden:

    On July 12, 2018, nearing the end of a fifth deployment, Sergeant Celiz was leading an operation in the Paktia province of Afghanistan.

    And during the firefight, a member of his team was critically wounded, as they called for medical evacuation. Sergeant Celiz used his body as a shield for the aircraft and his crew against the heavy incoming fire.

  • Katie Celiz, Wife:

    My name is Katie Celiz, and my late husband was Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Celiz.

    We miss him a lot. But the fact that his sacrifice is being recognized, I feel like it's one step closer for us to find closure and to heal finally.

    He was a Ranger through and through. He loved his men, and he would do anything for them. He truly thought of them as family, and, to this day, they're still our family.

  • Joe Biden:

    August 28, 2013, then-Staff Sergeant Earl Plumlee was with members of his unit at Forward Operation Base Ghazni in Afghanistan. Then, insurgents, it turned out, detonated a 400-pound car bomb that blew open a 60-foot-wide breach in a perimeter wall.

    Staff Sergeant Plumlee and members of his special operations team immediately hopped in a nearby truck and raced toward the blast to defend the base. When they arrived, they encountered insurgents coming through the wall, all wearing explosive vests.

    The staff sergeant exited the vehicle and used his own body to shield the driver. Outnumbered, with no regard for his own safety, at times armed with only a pistol, Staff Sergeant Plumlee attacked the insurgent forces, taking them on one by one.

    Master Sergeant Earl Plumlee, Medal of Honor Recipient: My name is Master Sergeant Earl Plumlee.

    What this award means to me is that I will be a representative for the valor that occurred on that day, and I will represent those men that came with me to that fight.

    Not a doubt in my mind that either one of those guys could have filled my shoes if I had been the one that had been injured. It's heady talk to think that I'm a representative of the best that the Army has. I'm just incredibly humbled to be here, especially to be with these other two families.

    There's nothing more honorific I can imagine than to be a part of the Cashe or Celiz story. I think it's the only thing that you could possibly do to make this more profound.

    (APPLAUSE)

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