Medal of Honor: Sergeant-Major Thomas Payne, United States Army

This Friday, on the 19th Anniversary of 9/11, President Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Army Sgt. Major Thomas Payne.

“On October 22, 2015, during a daring nighttime hostage rescue in Kirkuk Province, Iraq, in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, then-Sergeant First-Class Payne led a combined assault team charged with clearing one of two buildings known to house hostages.”

That first building was cleared, freeing 38 hostages.  Then came the call for an additional assault team for the second structure.  Sergeant Payne volunteered to assist. Exposing himself to enemy fire as he raced across the compound, once there, he climbed a ladder to the roof of that second building, which was now on fire! Sergeant Payne directed grenades and small arms fire down on the enemy combatants below.  He then returned to the ground, all the while facing enemy fire.

With time now critical for rescuing the remaining hostages from that burning building, he fought his way into the main entrance, battling both enemy fire but also the very real fire threatening the structure.  Finding the smoke-shrouded room where the hostages were thought to be imprisoned, his team was momentarily stopped, as the armored door there contained several locks. Trading his rife for bolt cutters, he and his fellow soldiers cut through the series of locks, finally freeing an additional 37 hostages, then covering their escape from the building that was, by then, close to collapse as the structural fire raged. Despite that, he entered the building one last time to ensure that no hostage had been left behind to die from the smoke and fire, if not from the enemy.

The White House announcement stated, in part: “Sergeant Payne’s extraordinary heroism and selfless actions were key to liberating 75 hostages during a contested rescue mission that (also) resulted in 20 enemy fighters killed.”

Sgt. Major Thomas Payne is a native of South Carolina.  “Part of the 9/11 generation,” he joined the Army in July 2002, became an Army Ranger, and then in 2010 he was wounded by a grenade blast, while on a combat mission in Afghanistan.  His wife Alison is a nurse, his dad if a police officer, and his two brothers are, one each, in the Army and Air Force. The Paynes are a great American family, dedicated to service.

(MOH background data via, news release, 9-3-2020)