Soldier Awarded Medal of Honor on Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks That Inspired Him to Fight


On the 19th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, President Donald Trump awarded Sgt. Maj. Thomas "Patrick" Payne the Medal of Honor, making him the first living member of the Army's elite Delta Force to receive the nation's highest award for valor.

The White House ceremony, which was far less crowded because of COVID-19 restrictions, featured senior Pentagon and Army leaders, members of Congress and three past recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Payne is credited with exposing himself to enemy fire multiple times to open a barricaded prison door during an October 2015 mission to rescue more than 70 Iraqi hostages from an Islamic State prison compound in the town of Hawija in northern Iraq.

Read Next: Trump Says Troops Won't Have to Pay Back Deferred Payroll Taxes -- If He Wins

"Today, it's my privilege to present the Congressional Medal of Honor to a warrior who has devoted the last two decades to fighting the forces of terror," Trump said.

Dressed in the new World War II-style Army Green Service Uniform, Payne stood at attention as the president highlighted his impressive military career. Payne's wife, Alison, and their 6-year-old son sat watching nearby.

"Exactly 19 years ago today on Sept. 11, 2001, news of the attack on our … great country ... went through Pat's high school," Trump said. "In that moment, Pat was called to action. He knew that his country needed him."

Ten short months later, at the age of 18, Payne was in Army basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He would soon join the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Payne saw "heavy combat in multiple theaters, Trump said, describing how in 2010 Payne's leg was severely wounded by an enemy grenade in Afghanistan.

"Less than two years after being wounded, Pat competed against some of America's toughest warriors and won the prestigious Best Ranger Competition, among the most grueling physical contests anywhere in the country," Trump said.

In October 2015, Payne was on his 14th deployment, serving as an assistant team leader of a raid force from 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta that teamed up with Kurdish special forces to conduct a nighttime helicopter assault into the prison compound.

"The team soon received horrifying intelligence that the terrorists were planning to massacre their captives and bury them in freshly dug graves," Trump said. "After midnight on Oct. 22, Pat boarded a helicopter and departed on a mission to free the hostages from two buildings guarded by dozens of ruthless and bloodthirsty ISIS terrorists."

After landing, Payne and his team quickly liberated a group of hostages from their assigned building after meeting light resistance. About 30 yards away, American and Kurdish forces were fighting fiercely to enter the second building objective.

"Pat turned to one of his fellow soldiers and said, 'Let's get into the fight right now,'" Trump said.

Payne and his team quickly decided to maneuver to the top of that building but failed to gain entry. Flames and heavy smoke poured out of the building as enemy forces fought tenaciously to defend it.

Despite being under heavy enemy fire, Payne was able to cut the locks off of the prison door so his team could begin freeing hostages.

Multiple ISIS fighters detonated suicide vests, "ripping a portion of the building into pieces," Trump said, describing how the building began to collapse.

"Pat ran back into the burning building [two more times] as it was collapsing," Trump said. "He saved multiple hostages, and he was the last man to leave.

"It was one of the largest and most daring rescue missions in American history. Pat and his team rescued 75 captives and killed 20 ISIS terrorists."

But the mission was not without a heavy cost, Trump said, describing how Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed as he led Kurdish forces out of a crossfire.

Trump then asked Wheeler's wife, Ashley, to rise from her seat in the audience to be honored.

"Our nation endures because of those fearless warriors like Josh, who are willing to lay down their lives for our freedom," he said.

Trump then hung the Medal of Honor around Payne's neck, making sure it was straight.

"Pat, you embody the righteous glory of American valor," Trump said. "We stand in awe of your heroic daring and gallant deeds."

Army officials have identified Payne as a Ranger who was selected for assignment to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but they have not publicly confirmed his affiliation with the elite and highly secretive Delta Force.

But two sources, who have served in Army special operations units and know Payne personally, confirmed to that Payne, like Wheeler, is a respected member of Delta Force.

Delta Force was formed in 1977. Two other Delta members were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1994, for their heroism during the Oct. 3, 1993, Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia. Those Medals of Honor, for the mission that would become famous for its portrayal in the book and film "Black Hawk Down," were the first awarded in any conflict after the Vietnam War.

Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart posthumously received the medal for volunteering to enter the besieged city to protect the wounded pilot of a downed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

Payne recently told reporters at the Pentagon that he hopes he can be a suitable guardian of the prestigious honor.

"The spirit of the Medal of Honor lives inside every American; for me, I don't consider myself a recipient. I consider myself a guardian,"he said. "I just want to be a man that wears it well."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

Related: Sgt. Maj. Thomas Payne Will Be 1st Living Delta Force Member to Receive Medal of Honor


More Related News

Analysis: Trump sanctions could give Biden a bargaining chip in deal talks with Iran
Analysis: Trump sanctions could give Biden a bargaining chip in deal talks with Iran

The Trump administration's imposition of new sanctions on Iran may have been intended to forestall a new nuclear deal with Tehran if Joe Biden is elected president, but it could backfire instead by strengthening Biden's hand at the bargaining table. The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday slapped counterterrorism sanctions on key players in Iran's oil sector for supporting the Quds Force, the elite paramilitary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The move, just before the Nov. 3 U.S. election, followed sanctions on 18 banks in Iran that Washington imposed earlier this month.

Fact check: Neither Biden nor Trump is calling for mandated COVID-19 vaccines
Fact check: Neither Biden nor Trump is calling for mandated COVID-19 vaccines

Viral posts claim the Democrats would make coronavirus vaccines required - that's false - but Republicans would not - that's true.

Consumer confidence falls in U.S. swing states ahead of presidential election
Consumer confidence falls in U.S. swing states ahead of presidential election

Consumer confidence dropped sharply in October in three U.S. states considered crucial for Republican President Donald Trump's re-election as fears about the economy's outlook mounted, according to a survey on Tuesday. The Conference Board's findings came ahead of next Tuesday's fiercely contested battle for the White House between Trump and Democratic nomineee Joe Biden. Trump is trailing the former vice president in national opinion polls.

The US presidential race, from A to Z
The US presidential race, from A to Z

It's been a race like no other: held amid the coronavirus pandemic, economic turmoil, and a national reckoning on race -- and after four turbulent years with Donald Trump as president.

In Swearing In Barrett, Trump Defiantly Mimics
In Swearing In Barrett, Trump Defiantly Mimics 'Superspreader' Rose Garden Ceremony

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump, who loves to boast of doing anything his predecessors have never done, pulled off such a historic first Monday. He won confirmation of a Supreme Court justice only eight days before a presidential election, rushing his choice through the Senate before voters decide whether to give him four more years or kick him out of office.Trump then did something else no other president has done. He hosted a nighttime ceremony on the White House lawn to swear in Justice Amy Coney Barrett in a virtual do-over of the superspreader event blamed for infecting multiple people with the coronavirus a month ago to the day, including the president himself, who was forced...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • Rapid City
    (2020-09-18 14:26:37Z)

    We really need soldiers like him. Congratulations and thank you to this man.

  • Our Site
    (2020-09-18 15:10:48Z)

    A true hero! Thanks for soldiers like him


Top News: Latin America