Soldier to receive Medal of Honor for role in harrowing rescue of 70 hostages set to be executed by ISIS

by Laura Mize · Sep 3rd, 2020 12:27 pm
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U.S. Army

Last Updated Sep 4th, 2020 at 6:27 pm

Sgt. Maj. Thomas "Patrick" Payne, a U.S. Army Ranger who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, will receive the Medal of Honor from President Trump in a September 11 ceremony, the Associated Press reports.

Payne will be recognized for heroic actions in a 2015 raid that freed about 70 ISIS hostages that were facing imminent execution in the Iraqi town of Huwija. Payne and other U.S. military members accompanied Kurdish forces to rescue the prisoners, many of whom were Kurdish fighters.

Intelligence officials reported that aerial photos of the ISIS compound showed newly dug graves for the soon-to-be executed prisoners.

"Time was of the essence," Payne said in a statement not yet released to the public, but obtained by the AP. "There were freshly dug graves. If we didn't action this raid, then the hostages were likely to be executed."

U.S. forces were there in a support role to the Kurdish military, but had to take an integral role in the rescue after the Kurds' initial blast meant to let them into the compound failed.

Following that, Kurdish and American soldiers engaged in firefights with ISIS in various parts of the terrorist compound and freed prisoners from two different buildings, one of which was on fire. The torched building was further compromised by ISIS fighters detonating suicide vests on top of the structure. Payne entered the blazing structure at least three times to retrieve hostages, using bolt cutters in heavy smoke to open doors that were chained shut. The Kurdish and American forces successfully rescued the captives.

Payne also received a Purple Heart for an injury he received in a 2010 mission in Afghanistan. He is a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and has served in U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


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