On September 11, 2020, Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne will receive the Medal of Honor at the White House for his actions on October 22, 2015 when he took part in a “daring nighttime hostage rescue mission” in Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition fight against ISIS.
Sergeant Payne, who led a combined assault team during two separate forays, bravely rescued 75 prisoners from terrorist groups. On the nineteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks he will be awarded the nation’s highest military award.
“With speed, audacity, and courage, he first led his team as they quickly cleared the assigned building, liberating 38 hostages,” read the White House statement. “Then, upon hearing a request for additional assault team members to assist with clearing the other building, Sergeant Payne, on his own initiative, left his secured position. He exposed himself to enemy fire as he bounded across the compound to the other building from which enemy forces were engaging his comrades.”
Payne climbed a ladder to the roof of the building, which was engulfed in flames and engaged the enemy fighters. He returned to the building and rescued an additional 37 hostages.
“Service is a theme in Sergeant Major Payne’s family,” the White House added. “His wife Alison is a nurse, his father is a police officer, and his two brothers serve in the Army and Air Force.”
Sergeant Payne entered the army in July 2002, less than a year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He was assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment in 2003. He was wounded from a grenade blast in 2010, and while recovering from his injuries he met his wife Alison.
Payne overcame his near career-ending injury and went on to win the 2012 Best Ranger Competition.
He was deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve, Resolute Support and with the United States Africa Command.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Sergeant Payne has been awarded four Bronze Stars for valor, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Purple Heart, among others. He is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina with his wife and three children.
History of the Medal of Honor:
The history of the highest decoration dates back to the American Civil War, when Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced a bill to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by authorizing the production and distribution of “medals of honor.” Within months a similar bill was introduced for an award for privates of the U.S. Army. The wording and nature of the bills changed, including that this award would be for soldiers of all services and all ranks. On July 12, 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the authorization of the Medal of Honor.
As it was the only military award for valor during the conflict of brother vs. brother. A total of 1,527 medals were awarded. With the introduction of other medals, by the Spanish-American War the Medal of Honor became the supreme honor. In total more than 3,400 Medals of Honor have been awarded to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
The term “Congressional Medal of Honor” is also incorrect. The Medal of Honor is presented by the President on the behalf of Congress, and the confusion may come from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which was formed by an act of Congress in 1958.
Along with the Legion of Merit, the Medal of Honor are the only two neck order awards issued by the United States Armed Forces—and it is the only neck order issued to members of the U.S. Armed Forces. All members of all branches of the U.S. military are eligible to receive the honor, and each service has its own unique design—with the exception of the USMC and Coast Guard, which both use the U.S. Navy’s version of the award.
The Medal of Honor has evolved greatly since it was first introduced in 1862. The basic medal is a gold star surrounded by a wreath, topped by an eagle on a bar with the word “Valor” inscribed. The gold star is attached to a ribbon with 13 stars on a light blue field, the same color as the neckband.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.