Until a few weeks ago, Kasinal White, sister of Iraq War hero Alwyn Cashe, had almost given up hope that the last decade of work she had spent trying to get the Improved Silver Star would never work.
“I thought I had exhausted all my options,” White said at a press conference with reporters on Tuesday. âI knew he met the criteria for the Medal of Honor. I told my kids that I couldn’t leave this world without it happening.
“And now we have two bills that will hopefully give Al the medal he deserves.”
House lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation that would allow the president to reclassify Cashe’s Silver Star to a Medal of Honor. Similar language was also included in the annual Defense Authorization Bill earlier this summer, giving lawmakers two distinct opportunities to advance the Honor upgrade.
âWe really want to try and do this as quickly as possible,â said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., One of the measure’s sponsors. âKasinal and his family have been fighting for this for years. They’ve really waited long enough.
Cashe was killed in 2005 after sustaining severe burns all over his body while attempting to rescue other soldiers from a burning Bradley fighting vehicle following an ambush in Iraq. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his rescue attempts, but defenders have long argued that he should receive the highest military honor for his heroism on the battlefield.
At the time of the Silver Star award, military officials said that even though the vehicle was set on fire by a roadside bomb, Cashe’s actions did not deserve the Medal of Honor because the soldiers did not deserve the Medal of Honor. were not in active combat.
However, follow-up investigations revealed that early reports of the attack left out enemy fire that raked the ground around Cashe throughout his heroic actions.
Last month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly backed the improvement in Cashe’s price, pending congressional action. Under current rules, the medal must be awarded within five years of the heroic action. Murphy’s Bill would waive this requirement for Cashe.
If that decision is made, Cashe would become the first African American to receive the award for his actions in the most recent wars.
White said his family didn’t think discrimination was involved in the long process, as some advocates have speculated in recent years.
âI feel like the right information didn’t come back on time,â she said. “I think based on what (military officials) knew at the time, they did their best.”
With the action of the House, attention is now focused on the Senate. Murphy said she had heard no opposition to the measure, but also received no firm commitment as to when a vote could take place there.
Still, she and White are confident the final legislative decision will come this year. White said she already plans to finally see her brother’s heroism properly recognized far beyond the veterans community that lobbied on her behalf.
âEveryone who has walked this path and stayed trueâ¦ they helped us discover another side of my brother,â she said. âWe knew his positive and generous side, but we didn’t know his military side and what he was doing.
“They gave us pictures that we probably never would have had.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on policies relating to military personnel and veterans. His work has earned him numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.