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2012 Dramatic Taliban Hostage Rescue Earns Navy SEAL Medal of Honor

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2012 Dramatic Taliban Hostage Rescue Earns Navy SEAL Medal of Honor

WASHINGTON — President Obama will present the Medal of Honor to a Navy SEAL for his role in a dramatic nighttime raid of a Taliban compound that led to the rescue of an American doctor in Afghanistan in 2012, the White House said Tuesday.

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, a member of SEAL Team Six, will be presented the nation’s highest military honor in a ceremony in the White House Feb. 29. Byers, 36, was part of an elite special forces operation that rescued an American doctor who had been kidnapped for ransom by Taliban fighters while trying to establish medical clinics in the war-torn country.

Byers’ actions were so clearly beyond expectation, even for a Navy SEAL, that the Navy had no hesitation in nominating him for the Medal of Honor, according to a Defense official familiar with his case but not authorized to speak publicly about it.

“There’s no margin of doubt or possibility of error in awarding this honor,” the Defense official said. “His actions were so conspicuous in terms of bravery and self-sacrifice that they clearly distinguished him to be worthy of the award, including risk of his own life.”

But even with the announcement of his Medal of Honor, much about the mission — and Byers’ role in it — remains secret. While the White House usually gives a much more detailed account of what a service member has done to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Byers commendation cites only “his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan, December 8-9, 2012.”

It was sometime after midnight on the 9th that Dr. Dilip Joseph — the medical director for the faith-based nonprofit Morning Star Development going into his fifth day of captivity by ransom-seeking Taliban fighters — heard dogs barking and sheep bleating outside the small, stone-and-mud shack where he was held in the mountains east of Kabul.

Two of his captors went out to investigate, but came back and conferred quietly, evidently seeing nothing outside.

Joseph had a runny nose, and was trying to clear it with a well-used handkerchief quietly, so as not to offend Afghan sensibilities about blowing one’s nose in public. He was on the edge of sleep when he heard the first gunshots, he recounted in a 2014 book, Kidnapped by the Taliban: A Story of Terror, Hope, and Rescue by SEAL Team Six.

“Is Dilip Joseph here?” shouted one of the heavily armed men, wearing night-vision goggles and speaking English. When Joseph identified himself, one of the SEALs — Joseph doesn’t know for sure — immediately laid down on top of him to protect him from the fighting, asking about his welfare. Amid the gunfire, the SEAL calmly asked if he had been fed, if he could walk, and if he had been mistreated.

Five Taliban fighters were killed. One Navy SEAL — the first one in the door, who the others called Nic — had been shot in the forehead.

As they waited for a helicopter 12 minutes out, the SEALs protected Joseph by “sandwiching” him between two team members. The one in front of him kept calling to the one behind him, named “Ed,” the only other name he heard that night or since. That man, he now knows for the first time, is Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers.

“What are you doing?” asked the one in front.

“Praying for Nic,” said the one named Ed. “Praying that he’ll be O.K.”

Later, Joseph learned 28-year-old Petty Officer 1st class Nicolas Checque, of Monroeville, Pa., had been killed.

The mission has been controversial. In a report on SEAL Team Six last year, The New York Times highlighted discrepancies between Joseph’s recollection and the official account. Joseph said that after the shooting stopped, he saw one of the Taliban fighters — a 19-year-old he called Wallakah, who he had tried to bond with during his captivity — alive, unhurt and apparently subdued. When he returned inside to wait for the helicopter, Wallakah was dead. The Pentagon has disputed that account.

In an interview with USA TODAY, Joseph betrayed mixed feelings in an attempt to reconcile his overwhelming gratitude to the SEALs with the surgical, fatal nature of the operation. It’s that contradiction — the compassion and selflessness of these highly-trained special forces — that’s left the most lasting impression of SEAL Team Six.

“It was amazingly clinical how they handled the whole situation,” Joseph said. “They’re just amazing. They’re very good at what they’re trained to do. But they’re human too.”

Joseph caught a rare glimpse of that humanity the next day, when he was granted special access to the “ramp” ceremony for Checque. As he watched the SEAL team solemnly load their fallen comrade’s body onto a C-17 cargo plane, Joseph saw tears running down their cheeks.

Only five Navy SEALs have ever been awarded the Medal of Honor, three in Vietnam and one each — posthumously — for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Byers is the first living sailor to be awarded the Medal of Honor since 1998, when President Bill Clintonawarded one retroactively for action in the Vietnam war.

Navy Sea, Air and Land Teams, known as SEALs, are one of the military’s most elite, secretive and storied special forces units. It was a similar SEAL Team Six unit that found and killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

While the Pentagon did not confirm that Byers was a member of SEAL Team Six — a unit designation not officially acknowledged — Joseph said his rescuers gave him a rare SEAL military coin with the numeral VI on it.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “strongly recommended” Byers for the Medal of Honor in December 2014, according to a memo obtained by USA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act.

The unusual delay in awarding the medal stems in part from a recent deployment that prevented him from traveling to Washington, according to a senior Defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Under a 1905 executive order by President Teddy Roosevelt, Medal of Honor recipients are ordered to Washington to have the medal presented by the president. Since 1984, every Medal of Honor ceremony has been at the White House, according to data from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

For Byers, the Medal of Honor caps an already impressive array of military decorations, including five Bronze Stars with valor, two Purple Hearts, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with valor, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals (one with valor), two Combat Action Ribbons, three Presidential Unit Citations, two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, two Navy Unit Commendations, and five Good Conduct Medals.

He was promoted to senior chief special warfare operator just two weeks ago, a rank equivalent to master sergeant, according to Department of Defenserecords.

Since being trained as a Navy SEAL and combat medic in 2003, he’s had eight deployments as a Navy SEAL — seven in combat. While the exact locations of those assignments are secret, his commendations suggest service in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Edward Carl Byers Jr. was born in Toledo, Ohio, and graduated from Otsego High School in the small town of Tontogany, Ohio, in 1997. He joined the Navy in September 1998.

For years, most of what his hometown knew about his military service was a line in the church bulletin of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Toledo, asking parishioners to pray for those currently serving the country. While others were listed by rank, the bulletin describes Byers only as a Navy serviceman.

Byers is the 11th living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. The White House said Tuesday that he would be joined by his family for the White House ceremony later this month.

He will graduate early this year from Norwich University, a Vermont military college, with a Bachelor of Science in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis.

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

In the operation, dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” undercover officers posed as 13- and 14-year-old children on social media and online dating apps between July 27 and Aug. 1.

The undercovers made contact with each of the suspects before proposing they meet at a location in Polk County, where they were busted.

In total, the arrests led to 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges. Those arrested were aged 26 to 47. All were from Central Florida except for one 33-year-old man from California.

“What you see on this board … are deviants. Incredible deviants,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Tuesday, motioning to photos of the alleged pervs. “They travel from as far away as Clewiston, Florida. One even came from Los Angeles.”

“Much to their chagrin, instead of meeting with young children, they were met by law enforcement officers who were online undercover posing as children.”

Kenneth Javier Aquino, 26, a lifeguard at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, was arrested while still wearing his Disney polo shirt and swimsuit, according to the sheriff’s office.

Aquino engaged in an online conversation on social media with an officer, posing as a 13-year-old girl, authorities said. He then asked the “girl” to send photos, and sent her an explicit video of himself, police said.

Aquino told officers he is a Navy veteran and has a pregnant girlfriend.

Jonathan McGrew, a 34-year-old custodian at Disney World, was nabbed by an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.

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McGrew allegedly told the “girl” that he wanted her to come over and have sex with him and his girlfriend, 29-year-old Savannah Lawrence, who also works as a custodian at tourist mecca.

McGrew sent her explicit videos of him and Lawrence performing sexual acts on each other, authorities said.

A rep for Disney World didn’t immediately return a message.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological issues, and died in May.

Blood and saliva samples were tested and researchers in April found evidence of the Monkey B virus, also known as the herpes B virus.

Researchers said a male doctor and female nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus.

The Monkey B virus is prevalent among macaque monkeys but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, just 50 cases have been reported, with the majority of those in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, however, with a fatality rate of about 80 percent.

Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and progress to more serious complications such as swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Laboratory workers and veterinarians in close contact with the animals are most at risk as people typically get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth.

But the virus is unlikely to mutate in a way that poses a problem to the general population. Just one case of human-to-human transmission of the virus has ever been documented.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

In New York, a dispute over coronavirus-safety precautions is leading to split-screen remembrances Friday, one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Center and another on a nearby corner. The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day.

Trump and Biden are both headed — at different times — to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Trump is speaking at the morning ceremony, the White House said. Biden plans to pay respects there in the afternoon after attending the observance at the 9/11 memorial in New York.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is also due at ground zero — and then at the alternate ceremony a few blocks away.

In short, the anniversary of 9/11 is a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a health crisis, searches its soul over racial injustice and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.

Still, 9/11 families say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.

“I know that the heart of America beats on 9/11 and, of course, thinks about that tragic day. I don’t think that people forget,” says Anthoula Katsimatides, who lost her brother John and is now on the board of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.

Friday will mark Trump’s second time observing the 9/11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial, where he made remarks in 2018. Biden spoke at the memorial’s dedication in 2011, when he was vice president.

The ground zero ceremony in New York has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to speak, though they can attend. Biden did so as vice president in 2010, and Trump as a candidate in 2016.

Though the candidates will be focused on the commemorations, the political significance of their focus on Shanksville is hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a must-win state for both. Trump won it by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Around the country, some communities have canceled 9/11 commemorations because of the pandemic, while others are going ahead, sometimes with modifications.

The New York memorial is changing one of its ceremony’s central traditions: having relatives read the names of the dead, often adding poignant tributes.

Thousands of family members are still invited. But they’ll hear a recording of the names from speakers spread around the vast plaza, a plan that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact at a stage but still allow families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.

But some victims’ relatives felt the change robbed the observance of its emotional impact. A different 9/11-related group, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, set up its own, simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying there’s no reason that people can’t recite names while keeping a safe distance.

The two organizations also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade center and evoke its fallen twin towers. The 9/11 memorial initially canceled the display, citing virus-safety concerns for the installation crew. After the Tunnel to Towers Foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chairman, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Tunnel to Towers, meanwhile, arranged to display single beams for the first time at the Shanksville memorial and the Pentagon.

Over the years, the anniversary also has become a day for volunteering. Because of the pandemic, the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance organization is encouraging people this year to make donations or take other actions that can be accomplished at home.

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