OHS alumnus Cashe to receive posthumous Medal of Honor

Cashe is pictured here in his official Army photograph.

Courtesy of US Army

Cashe is pictured here in his official Army photograph.

This story was originally published in the third edition of The Lion’s Tale (December 9, 2020).

On Oct. 17, 2005, Sgt. 1st Class (SFC) Alwyn Cashe pulled six of his fellow soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle, suffering severe burns that proved to be fatal. Now, 15 years later, he is set to receive the country’s highest military decoration for his actions.

Cashe, who attended Oviedo High School and grew up in the area, enlisted in the Army after graduating in 1988. He served in the Gulf War and in Iraq following the US-led invasion prior to his 2005 deployment with the 3rd Infantry Division in that country. Cashe was acting as platoon sergeant of the 1st Platoon of Alpha Company when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device (IED) en route to Daliaya, Iraq, engulfing it in flames and dousing him in fuel. Initially only slightly injured, Cashe exited the transport and aided its driver in doing so. He then moved to the rear of the vehicle, pulling injured soldiers from the flames. He returned to remove his men multiple times, enduring the heat of the blaze as it burned away his armor and uniform.

Cashe ultimately rescued six soldiers and refused medical evacuation until others were evacuated. The explosion injured ten soldiers, seven gravely, and an interpreter was killed. Cashe was wounded the most severely as second and third degree burns covered 72% of his body. He succumbed to his injuries three weeks later at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Although he was posthumously awarded a Silver Star, Cashe was initially denied the Medal of Honor because he and his men were not in active combat.

However, subsequent investigation revealed that the soldiers had taken enemy fire throughout the incident, beginning a campaign to have Cashe’s Silver Star upgraded. This movement earned the support of many in the military community, including the major general who nominated him for his original award.

On Oct. 17, 2019, Reps. Dan Crenshaw, Michael Waltz and Stephanie Murphy, whose congressional district includes all of Seminole County, wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan Murphy requesting that Cashe be recognized with the Medal of Honor.

“SFC Cashe has become something of a legend in military circles, the object of profound respect and even reverence,” wrote the three members of congress, each of who served in the military or worked at the Department of Defense, in their letter.

Esper responded in August, agreeing that he merited the decoration, but noting that the law required the Medal of Honor to be awarded within five years of the deserving action. The following month the House passed legislation waiving that requirement and the Senate followed suit. If President Trump signs the bill into law and authorizes the award of the medal to his family, Cashe will become the first African American to receive it since the Vietnam War.

“He is deserving of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for bravery on the battlefield, and we urge President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law to make sure that happens,” Crenshaw said after the Senate approved the bill.

This latest decoration is just one aspect of Cashe’s legacy. His son, Andrew Cashe, graduated from the Army’s One Station Unit Training for Infantry in July. Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villaneuva, who served as an Army ranger, honored Cashe by taping his name on the back of his helmet before a game in September. The Oviedo Post Office was renamed in his memory in 2019.

“Alwyn is a hero in the most pure and profound sense,” Murphy said in a speech given at a dedication ceremony for that post office. “He’s the real thing.”