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Soldier Who Risked His Life To Rescue 75 Hostages From ISIS Awarded Medal Of Honor On 9/11

Soldier Who Risked His Life To Rescue 75 Hostages From ISIS Awarded Medal Of Honor On 9/11

The 36-year-old was honored during a ceremony at the White House on the 19th anniversary of 9/11 for his "extraordinary heroism and selfless actions."

Cover Image Source: Getty/ US President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas P. Payne, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry in the East Room of the White House on September 11 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Anger)

President Donald Trump on Friday presented the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Major Thomas Patrick Payne, who put his own life on the line to save hostages from ISIS in 2015. The 36-year-old was honored during a ceremony at the White House on the 19th anniversary of 9/11 for his "extraordinary heroism and selfless actions," which were "key to liberating 75 hostages during a contested rescue mission that resulted in 20 enemy fighters killed in action," said the White House in a statement. The daring nighttime hostage rescue in Kirkuk Province, Iraq, is said to have occurred on October 22, 2015.

 



 

The "then-Sergeant First Class Payne led a combined assault team charged with clearing one of two buildings known to house hostages," revealed the White House statement. "With speed, audacity, and courage, he first led his team as they quickly cleared the assigned building, liberating 38 hostages. Then, upon hearing a request for additional assault team members to assist with clearing the other building, Sergeant Payne, on his own initiative, left his secured position. He exposed himself to enemy fire as he bounded across the compound to the other building from which enemy forces were engaging his comrades."

 



 

"Sergeant Payne climbed a ladder to the building’s roof, which was now partially engulfed in flames, and engaged the enemy fighters below with grenades and small arms fire. He then moved to ground level, engaging enemy forces through a breach hole in the west side of the building. Knowing time was running out for the hostages trapped inside the burning building, Sergeant Payne moved to the building’s main entrance, from which heavy enemy fire had thwarted previous attempts to enter. Sergeant Payne knowingly risked his own life by bravely entering the building under intense enemy fire, enduring smoke, heat, and flames to identify the armored door imprisoning the hostages," it continued, detailing the operation.

 



 

"Upon exiting, Sergeant Payne exchanged his rifle for bolt cutters and again entered the building, ignoring the enemy rounds impacting the walls around him as he cut the locks on a complex locking mechanism. His courageous actions motivated the coalition assault team members to enter the breach and assist with cutting the locks. After exiting to catch his breath, he reentered the building to make the final lock cuts, freeing 37 hostages. Sergeant Payne then facilitated the evacuation of the hostages despite being ordered to evacuate the collapsing building himself, which was now structurally unsound due to the fire," officials revealed.

 



 

 

According to PEOPLE, Trump praised Payne's heroic actions while speaking to his son at the ceremony, telling the youngster that his "dad is one of the bravest men anywhere in the world," and "exceptional." Payne grew up in South Carolina in a family of servicemen, including a police officer father and two brothers who serve in the Army and Air Force. "As a kid, I wanted to be like a G.I. Joe," he told the Army News Service. "I was always fascinated with the military." He entered the Army as an infantryman by 2002 and continued to work his way up the ranks. 

 



 

 

He suffered a near career-ending injury in Afghanistan from a grenade blast in 2010. However, the misfortunate event ended up bringing him some happiness as Payne met his now-wife Alison during his recovery period. The couple wed and went on welcome three children a few years after he reenlisted. "It's natural for him," Alison said of her husband’s dedication to the Army. "It’s what he’s always wanted to do. He’s a fish in water in that environment." Speaking of his latest award in a statement at the White House, Payne said: "My fellow Americans, thank you. This is truly an honor. The Hawijah hostage rescue raid on Oct. 22, 2015, underlined our country's undying commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

 



 

"Members of the United States Special Operations Command risked their lives. Master Sgt. Josh Wheeler gave his life in order to liberate the oppressed," he continued. "Therefore, the liberated now has a second chance at the pursuit of happiness. The actions by my teammates were truly awe-inspiring — makes you proud to be an American... The spirit of the Medal of Honor lives inside every American. Thank you."

 



 

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