Alwyn Cashe’s family has waited more than a decade for the Iraq War hero to be recognized with the Medal of Honor. Now, they’ll have to wait a little longer.
The Senate on Monday left town for a two-week recess without taking up legislation that would allow the president to bestow the nation’s highest military honor on Cashe, who died in November 2005. The earliest the chamber can now consider the legislation is Nov. 9, after the upcoming elections.
Passage of the bill — the culmination of years of lobbying by Cashe’s fellow soldiers and outside advocates — was not expected to be a point of contention in the Senate. The measure passed the House unanimously in September, and no Senate lawmakers have publicly spoken out in opposition to the idea.
But the contentious and quick confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court by Republican senators stalled nearly all other business in the chamber in recent weeks. On several occasions, supporters of Cashe’s bill had hoped the measure may slip through the partisan fighting, only to be disappointed.
Cashe, an Army sergeant first class who died in November 2005 while trying to save his men from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle, was previously honored with a Silver Star for his battlefield heroism.
Officials from the 18th Airborne Corps used social media earlier this month to recount Cashe’s actions 15 years ago, which included multiple trips into the fiery vehicle despite his own severe burns.
Advocates have long criticized that decision, noting paperwork mistakes and bureaucratic regulations that prevented him from receiving the highest military honor.
Over the summer, Defense Secretary Mark Esper completed a lengthy review of the case, telling lawmakers that he would reverse previous Pentagon recommendations and back the Medal of Honor for Cashe.
However, doing so requires legislation from Congress waiving a five-year deadline on awarding the honor. Even after lawmakers finalize that bill, the president will still have to make a formal decision on upgrading Cashe’s award.
If that move is made, Cashe would become the first African American to receive the award for actions in the most recent wars.
Critics have questioned whether discrimination has played a role in military officials' handling of Cashe’s case. But in a press conference with reporters earlier this month, Cashe’s sister, Kasinal White, said she did not think his race was a factor.
“I feel the right information did not get back in time,” she said. “I think given what (Army officials) knew at the time, they did the best they could.”
However, she said that now she is ready to see her brother “get the medal he deserves.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.