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Bill signed to award Medal of Honor to Sgt. Alwyn Cashe, Iraq war hero

Legislation was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday to honor Sgt. First Class Alwyn Cashe, who died in Iraq in 2005, with the Medal of Honor. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
Legislation was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday to honor Sgt. First Class Alwyn Cashe, who died in Iraq in 2005, with the Medal of Honor. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Sgt. First Class Alwyn Cashe, who died in 2005 while rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle in Iraq, was cleared to receive the Medal of Honor.

President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill on Friday, H.R. 8276, "which authorizes the President to posthumously award the Medal of Honor to Alwyn C. Cashe for acts of valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom while serving in the United States Army."

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The legislation waives the normal five-year time limit for awarding the medal, regarded as the nation's highest military award.

The bill passed the House in September, and the Senate in November, both by unanimous consent. The matter now goes to the Defense Department, which is expected to officially nominate Cashe for the award.

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Cashe, who sustained severe burns in his act of heroism, was awarded the Silver Star for his actions, but advocates have advocated for a higher honor.

Then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, are among those leading the effort to upgrade the honor.

Alejandro Villanueva, an Army Bronze Star recipient and current member of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, has worn Cashe's name on his helmet this year as a tribute.

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"The story of Alwyn's heroism has inspired so many people and I cannot wait for the day that his family will receive the nation's highest award for combat valor on his behalf," Murphy said on Friday.

The delay in Cashe's receipt of the Medal of Honor came because of conflicting information regarding the firefight during an ambush in Daliaya, Iraq.

Army researchers said the fire, which burned nearly 75 percent of Cashe's body, was caused by a roadside explosive and thus not a situation of actual combat. Evidence that the vehicle was under enemy gunfire during his rescue attempts, however, was later found.

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It was believed by some that the award to Cashe, who will be the first Black soldier of the Iraq War to receive the Medal of Honor, was slowed by internal Army discrimination.

"I feel the right information did not get back in time," said Cashe's sister, Kasinal White, earlier this year. "I think given what [Army officials] knew at the time, they did the best they could."

Plans for a formal award of the medal have not been revealed.

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