Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. joined the more than 3,460 other Medal of Honor recipients listed in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes March 1, during an induction ceremony in the Pentagon Auditorium.
During the ceremony, Senior Chief Byers delievered the following remarks.
I have realized throughout my life that time is the most precious commodity, and should not be wasted. So I will not waste yours. I sincerely thank you all for your time today.
I will speak just long enough to give credit and recognition to the heroes in my life. And to those who deserve to know that they are the reason I am standing here today – those heroes are my family, my faith, and the brotherhood.
Family is the reason I am able to do this job. And also my reason to live, to return home safely. Madison, my incredible wife, and Hannah – my beautiful daughter.
This would not have been possible without your resiliency and love. Your strength in my absence is something I have always admired and respected. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I will never forget how each time I returned home you would be waiting to pick me up, sometimes in the middle of the night, waiting to give me a hug and a kiss.
I would not be the man I am if it were not for you two. You are my true heroes. I love you.
Hand in hand with family is my faith. While it has been a more quiet aspect of my life, it has always played a significant role.
I grew up Catholic and continue to grow in my faith, thanks especially to my brother Trevor who taught me to turn my heart and soul toward Christ when I have strayed. Prayer provides calm amidst chaos for me.
On my first deployment to Iraq, some 11 years ago, I arrived in country and crossed paths with another SEAL who wore a St. Michael the Archangel patch on his shoulder. I noticed it immediately and was drawn to it. I don’t know what compelled me to do it, but I asked if I could have it. He was leaving the combat zone, and he handed it to me without hesitation.
I have worn that patch on my kit in every single operation – and I say the St. Michael Prayer while moving into the toughest missions I’ve faced.
It starts by saying, “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection…”
On that day in December 2012 – the day you have heard recounted several times about my team and the way we carried out the mission to rescue an American hostage – on that day, just like every other day, I prayed.
I prayed on my way to the target. And again I prayed over my brother Nicholas Checque, for his soul as he gave his life to save another American.
Nic Checque was a warrior, a brother, and a friend. I know I have said that repeatedly since this started, but this award is inseparable from his death. Nic embodied the brotherhood.
Nic embodied what it meant to be a Navy SEAL. He was hard as nails. Resilient. He had a never quit, never fail mentality.
Nic, along with the rest of our team, carried out some of the most difficult and dangerous missions our nation could have asked of us. Nicholas Checque paid the ultimate sacrifice, doing what he loved, on the battlefield. Because that is what brothers do. If they have to, they will lay down their life for you.
We were again reminded this morning of the continued sacrifices the men and women of our military make. The hotel where many of us are staying overlooks Washington, D.C, the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.
As the sun came up over the city, an unfamiliar, almost alarming sound reverberated through the air. A thick layer of light gray smoke covered our nation’s capital like a security blanket. The canons fired shook us to the core, because we were hearing the sound of sacrifice.
I have been to funerals at Arlington. I have been to more funerals than a person my age should have to. I have seen too many good men buried. You might ask what it is that keeps me going? How am I standing here still after loss? The answer is, undoubtedly, the brotherhood.
I have saved the brotherhood for last.
I want to emphasize that I am no different than any of my teammates.
I am certain that any one of them would have taken the same actions I did during that mission. I have seen countless heroic acts in my time working with the nation’s most elite operators.
I feel a sense of responsibility with the recognition that has been bestowed upon me. My brothers who are still fighting, who are still in the shadows, deserve to share this spotlight, but we are a community of quiet professionals, and those men would not expect or seek recognition for their actions.
I proudly wear this trident to represent the brotherhood. And now I have been welcomed into another group of exceptional military heroes.
I look at the names in the Hall of Heroes and realize the tremendous amount of bravery that flows through American veins.
Freedom is, in a large part, paid by blood, sweat, and tears.
I never imagined my life would lead me here. I am truly humbled and honored to represent the Navy and the Naval Special Warfare Community. And my only desire is that my representation is something my brothers who I have served with would be proud of.
Because the deed is all, not the glory.
May God bless you, and may St. Michael protect our warriors in battle.
Long live the brotherhood.
On the previous day, Senior Chief Byers received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House for his courageous actions while serving in Afghanistan.
Following the ceremony, Senior Chief Byers addressed the media:
“Good morning everyone.
I want to start off by saying that this experience has been truly humbling, to be presented the Medal of Honor by the President of the United States and to represent the Navy and the Naval Special Warfare Community.
I am grateful that my family, friends, and teammates have been able to share this day with me at the White House. This would not be as meaningful without being surrounded by the people who have supported me throughout my career.
I especially want to acknowledge my beautiful wife and daughter, whose love and support have been unwavering. They have always stood by my side.
They have endured long times apart and I admire their resiliency.
Ladies, you are the most important people in my life, and you mean the world to me. I love you very much.
I want to turn my attention now to my teammates because everything we do is as a team. If it wasn’t for that team, I would not be standing here today. Specifically, for me, today’s ceremony and this award honors a true American hero Nicholas Checque. He was killed in this operation, and he represents the finest warriors on the face of the planet.
Our nation owes him a debt of gratitude. A friend, teammate, and brother. He lived his life as a warrior. He carried out the nation’s toughest missions and his actions were fearless. Nic made the ultimate sacrifice that day. He gave his life to save the life of another American. I want to personally thank his family for giving their son in service of our great country, and to protect our freedoms.
My thoughts of Nic and my brothers will carry with me in the future, as I bear the weight of this honor.
I don’t know for sure how life will change after this, so moving forward I will take things one step at time.
Many have asked what I am going to do next I plan to continue my service in the Navy and as a SEAL.
It is truly the best job there is. A job I love with people I admire, whose purpose is important to me.
This has been a very memorable day in my life, and an incredible experience. And something I will surely not forget. I look forward to spending time with my family, friends, and teammates – as we gather we are going to celebrate Nic’s life as well as our other brothers who have also given their lives in service of this great nation. We are always grateful for everything they have given.
God bless you. Thank you.”
Read President Barack Obama’s remarks. Last week, Byers shared the story of the mission.
Click on the below graphic to enlarge it.
Additional information on Senior Chief Byers and previous Navy Medal of Honor awardees can be found at http://www.navy.mil/moh.
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