President Trump awarded Army Delta Force Sgt. Major Thomas "Patrick" Payne the Medal of Honor on Friday for helping to save more than 70 hostages from ISIS in Iraq.
"For me, I don't consider myself a recipient [of the Medal of Honor]. I consider myself a guardian [of the Medal of Honor]," Payne said. "I just want to be a man that wears it well and represents the Army."
Payne, who received the medal on the anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, felt prompted by the attacks to join the Army directly out of high school.
"When the [World Trade Center] towers fell when I was a senior in high school, it was a call to service," Payne said. "I love our country, and that's when I decided that I was going to serve in the military."
Payne was in his 14th deployment in October 2015 when Delta Force conducted a raid in Northern Iraq at an ISIS compound where hostages were being held.
"My team was responsible for one of the buildings that the hostages were being held in," Payne said. "What was significant is that there were freshly dug graves. If we didn't action this target then the hostages will probably be executed."
Payne risked his life multiple times in that mission, breaking into several buildings, one of which was on fire. Over 20 ISIS terrorists died that day.
"It was an honor ... to serve with my teammates that night," Payne said. "It was our duty to bring those men home."
"Pat, you personify the motto: 'Rangers lead the way,"' President Trump said to Payne on Friday.
Full White House Medal of Honor ceremony:
Full press conference with Sgt. Major Thomas "Patrick" Payne: