Kasinal Cashe White was elated when she heard the news last December. Then-President Donald Trump had signed H.R. 8276, waiving a five-year time limitation and permitting her brother, Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe, to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The medal would be an upgrade from the Silver Star he was awarded posthumously in 2005. The emotions she felt were the culmination of what she called her “life’s mission,” and a long battle dating from roughly 2007.
If awarded, Cashe would be the first Black service member since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor.
Even more, Cashe White said it’s about a deep need to “right a wrong that needs to be righted.”
“They [the presidential administration] can’t change anything for my brother,” she said. “The only thing they can do for my family is to put that medal in my hands. We lost our mom in 2015, and while I would have rathered someone put it in her hands, I’ll stand and accept it for her.”
A breakthrough only came in January 2018 when Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida) submitted legislation to have a post office in Oviedo, Florida, (Cashe’s hometown) named in his honor. And, on Sept. 16, 2020, Murphy introduced H.R. 8276 in the House. The bill garnered bipartisan support and was passed without amendment and with unanimous consent.
But the mission isn’t over.
Murphy said President Joe Biden has everything he needs to be able to award the Medal of Honor — the law to provide a time waiver and the support of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. But the president needs to make the decision to award Cashe the Medal of Honor.
After dedicating her time to research, sending letters, making phone calls, setting appointments with government officials, and working with Cashe’s former command to get paperwork resubmitted, his name remains absent from the Department of Defense’s archive of Medal of Honor recipients.
“I’m in constant contact with the Department of Defense and the White House trying to get this done and to remind them that this is out there,” Murphy said. “If the president chooses to award him the Medal of Honor as his family, the veteran community, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and members of Congress believe he deserves, then it will be a fitting and long overdue tribute to Alwyn Cashe, an American hero who should be known to every American.”
Either way, Cashe White said the fight is worth it to defend her brother’s legacy and solidify his name in American history.
On Oct. 17, 2005, Cashe was serving as a platoon sergeant with A Company,1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, when the Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was the gunner on triggered an improvised explosive device, causing a fuel spill and the vehicle to be engulfed in flames.
His Silver Star citation states Cashe suffered only minor injuries, but his uniform was drenched in fuel when he began pulling soldiers out of the vehicle. After extinguishing the flames on one soldier, Cashe went back to the vehicle to pull another soldier — and then another — to safety while he himself was on fire. Ten soldiers were injured and one national translator was killed during the event.
Cashe is credited with saving the lives of six service members that day. He suffered second- and third-degree burns on 72% of his body and was airlifted to Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he died on Oct. 20, 2005. He was 35 years old.
Cashe is survived by three children. His son, Andrew, stepped into his father’s combat boots and currently serves in an Army Infantry Division. Cashe White also is ensuring her brother’s legacy as she works to create a 501(c)(3) in his name with a goal to mentor young people in their hometown to find their way to service.
“And, it doesn’t have to be to the armed services, just a path to service,” she said. “I truly believe he [Cashe] followed his dream when he joined the military. We just want to help people follow their dreams.”