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Medal of Honor: Sgt. Major Payne

Mr Person

A Little Bitter
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Oct 14, 2015
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The team of elite U.S. Army soldiers had already freed dozens of captives at the Islamic State compound when an urgent plea crackled over the radio: Another team nearby on the roof of a burning building was taking enemy fire from multiple sides. 1st Sgt. Thomas P. Payne peered through his night-vision goggles in the predawn hours of Oct. 22, 2015, midway through a daring prisoner rescue in northern Iraq. A fellow soldier had already been shot. “Let’s get into the fight,” he told another soldier before climbing a ladder to reach the rooftop, then dropping grenades and firing down through holes to the floor below.

Then came the earsplitting staccato of detonating suicide vests, shaking the building’s foundation. The next step, Payne and the team understood, was to enter the building, where dozens more prisoners were still trapped. Payne, now a sergeant major, will receive the highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, in a White House ceremony Friday for his role in the rescue operation to free about 70 captives, in which he led many out and went back in for one last man. . . . “I don’t consider myself a recipient,” Payne told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday ahead of the ceremony, describing custody of the award. “I consider myself a guardian.”


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