Soldier receives Medal of Honor from Donald Trump for role in raid that freed 70 Iraqi hostages

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A Delta Force soldier received the Medal of Honor from Donald Trump Friday for his role in the raid that freed more than 70 Iraqi hostages from an Islamic State prison compound back in 2015. 

Sgt. Maj. Thomas ‘Patrick’ Payne, 36, was awarded the prestigious valor award in a ceremony at the White House on what marked the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The event makes Payne the first living Delta Force member in history to receive the honor.

Payne was honored for his part in the October 22 2015 mission where he and his comrades risked their lives facing a barrage of enemy gunfire to rescue hostages who were set to be executed by Islamic State militants in Iraq

Delta Force soldier Sgt. Maj. Thomas 'Patrick' Payne, 36, received the Medal of Honor from Donald Trump Friday for his role in the raid that freed more than 70 Iraqi hostages from an Islamic State prison compound back in 2015

Delta Force soldier Sgt. Maj. Thomas ‘Patrick’ Payne, 36, received the Medal of Honor from Donald Trump Friday for his role in the raid that freed more than 70 Iraqi hostages from an Islamic State prison compound back in 2015

Sgt. Maj. Thomas 'Patrick' Payne, 36, was awarded the prestigious valor award in a ceremony at the White House on what marked the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks

Sgt. Maj. Thomas ‘Patrick’ Payne, 36, was awarded the prestigious valor award in a ceremony at the White House on what marked the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks

Trump escorts Payne into the East Room of the White House to award him the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry during the hostage rescue mission in Iraq

Trump escorts Payne into the East Room of the White House to award him the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry during the hostage rescue mission in Iraq

Trump praised Payne as ‘one of the bravest men anywhere in the world’ as he presented him with the highest decoration a member of the military can be given.

‘Today he joins the immortal company of our most revered American heroes,’ Trump said in the White House ceremony. 

‘Pat, you personify the motto: ‘Rangers lead the way.” 

The president described the heroic actions of the soldier, who was joined at the ceremony by his wife Alison and six-year-old son. 

Also present at the ceremony was Ashley Wheeler, the wife of Payne’s teammate Master Sgt. Josh Wheeler, who died in the mission.

‘He ran right back into that raging blaze. He sliced the final lock and released the rest of the hostages,’ Trump said of the 2015 raid.

‘As the building began to collapse, he received orders to evacuate but he refused to do so. He didn’t want to leave anyone behind. 

‘Pat ran back into the burning building that was collapsing. Two more times. He saved multiple hostages and he was the last man to leave.’   

Payne was assigned to lead a team clearing one of two buildings known to house hostages in a nighttime operation in the northern Iraq province of Kirkuk on the night of October 22 2015.

The event makes Payne the first living Delta Force member in history to receive the honor - the highest military award

The event makes Payne the first living Delta Force member in history to receive the honor – the highest military award

Payne was joined at the ceremony by his wife Alison and six-year-old son (pictured). Also present at the ceremony was Ashley Wheeler, the wife of Payne's teammate Master Sgt. Josh Wheeler, who died in the mission

Payne was joined at the ceremony by his wife Alison and six-year-old son (pictured). Also present at the ceremony was Ashley Wheeler, the wife of Payne’s teammate Master Sgt. Josh Wheeler, who died in the mission

Trump praised Payne as 'one of the bravest men anywhere in the world' as he presented him with the award

Trump praised Payne as ‘one of the bravest men anywhere in the world’ as he presented him with the award

The raid quickly became complicated when Kurdish forces working with US troops tried and failed to blast a hole in the compound’s outer wall. 

The explosion alerted the ISIS militants, who opened fire on the Kurdish forces.

Payne, a sergeant first class at the time of the mission, and his unit climbed over a wall to enter the prison compound.   

The soldiers quickly cleared one of the two buildings but once inside, encountered enemy resistance. 

The team used bolt cutters to break the locks off the prison doors, freeing 38 hostages.

Moments later, an urgent call over the radio came from other task force members engaged in an intense gun fight at the second building. 

Between 10 to 20 Army soldiers, including Payne and Wheeler headed toward the second building that was partially on fire. 

Kurdish commandos were pinned down by the gunfire.

Wheeler was shot and killed, becoming the first American killed in action since the US launched renewed military intervention in Iraq against the Islamic State in 2014.  

The team scaled a ladder onto the roof of the one-story building under machine-gun fire. 

'Today he joins the immortal company of our most revered American heroes,' Trump said in the White House ceremony. 'Pat, you personify the motto: 'Rangers lead the way''

‘Today he joins the immortal company of our most revered American heroes,’ Trump said in the White House ceremony. ‘Pat, you personify the motto: ‘Rangers lead the way”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks with members of the military before the ceremony

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks with members of the military before the ceremony

From their roof-top vantage, the commandos engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire, according to an official account.

At that point, ISIS fighters began to detonate their suicide vests, causing the roof to shake, Payne said in a statement. 

At this point, Payne found bolt cutters to get through the door on the ground level.

‘I was able to cut the first lock,’ he told Military.com. ‘I bumped out. I had to catch my breath. The building was on fire. We were getting shot at.’ 

Payne went back into the line of fire to cut the second lock and opened the door so his teammates could enter the building.  

ISIS fighters continued to exchange gunfire with the commandos as they entered the building. 

Once the door was kicked opened, both American and Kurdish commandos escorted about 30 more hostages out of the burning building.

Payne reentered the building two more times to ensure every hostage was freed. He had to forcibly remove one of the hostages who was too frightened to move.

A total of 70 hostages were saved and 20 ISIS fighters also were killed in the operation.   

Payne paid tribute to Wheeler as an ‘American hero’ and told how he ‘didn’t hesitate’ in the mission before he was killed in the gunfire. 

‘Master Sgt. Wheeler is an American hero, and we are lucky to have men like Josh in the United States Army,’ Payne told Military.com Thursday at the Pentagon.

Payne was honored for his part in the October 22 2015 mission where he and his comrades risked their lives facing a barrage of enemy gunfire to rescue hostages who were set to be executed by Islamic State militants in Iraq. Footage of the raid

Payne was honored for his part in the October 22 2015 mission where he and his comrades risked their lives facing a barrage of enemy gunfire to rescue hostages who were set to be executed by Islamic State militants in Iraq. Footage of the raid

Footage shows the raid where 70 hostages set to be executed by Islamic State militants were rescued

Footage shows the raid where 70 hostages set to be executed by Islamic State militants were rescued 

Payne was assigned to lead a team clearing one of two buildings known to house hostages in a nighttime operation in the northern Iraq province of Kirkuk on the night of October 22 2015

Payne was assigned to lead a team clearing one of two buildings known to house hostages in a nighttime operation in the northern Iraq province of Kirkuk on the night of October 22 2015

‘At the beginning of the raid, our Kurdish partner force was caught in perfect interlocking sectors of fire and began taking casualties,’ he said. 

‘Master Sgt. Wheeler knew what had to be done and didn’t hesitate.’

Payne praised all his team members that day who he said ‘put the hostages’ lives above their own.’

‘This raid was the right thing to do; it was our duty to bring those men home and serve next to our Kurdish special forces,’ he told Military.com. 

‘Every man that night was engaged in their own unique problem set; it just wasn’t me. 

That night, me and my teammates were looking for other opportunities to liberate those hostages. I just happened to be the man that stumbled across that problem set. I had to capitalize on that opportunity that I was given.’

Payne said it was a ‘pretty special moment’ when he learned he would receive the Medal of Honor on September 11.   

Payne joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman and quickly made his way into the Rangers. 

He has been deployed 17 times to combat zones as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and in various positions with the US Army Special Operations Command.

He was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for the special operations raid, which was upgraded to a Medal of Honor. 

Payne (pictured in 2012) joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman and has been deployed 17 times to combat zones

Payne (pictured in 2012) joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman and has been deployed 17 times to combat zones

The well-decorated soldier has also received a Purple Heart for a wound sustained in a 2010 mission in Afghanistan.

Trump’s ceremony celebrating the war hero comes as he tries to distance himself from claims he repeatedly made offensive remarks about the US war dead, calling them ‘suckers’ and ‘losers’.  

A bombshell report published by the Atlantic last week and credited to four separate military sources revealed Trump’s apparent lack of respect for American soldiers.  

It said he cancelled a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in November 2018 because he was worried his hair would be ruined by the rain.

Then in a conversation with senior staff before the planned visit, Trump reportedly asked aides: ‘Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.’

During the same trip, the president allegedly called the more than 1,800 Marines who lost their lives in the Battle of Belleau Wood in France ‘suckers’ for getting killed.  

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