The White House presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne this week for heroism and selfless actions that were key to liberating 75 hostages under fire during a rescue mission five years ago in Hawija, Iraq. The South Carolina youth had originally joined the Army after 9/11, inspired by patriotism and a desire to defend the United States. Soon, he joined the elite ranks of the legendary Army Rangers.
He would endure 14 deployments before the day of October 22, 2015, when then-Sergeant First Class Payne—as part of a joint task force assisting Iraqi security forces—raided an ISIS prison to liberate 70 hostages, after a request by the Kurdistan government.
Pat and his fellow Rangers fought through the fire and the bullets. Pat navigated to the front door and saw the captives were being held behind a metal door secured by two very heavy padlocks. The building was on fire and partly collapsed.
He grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and, through flame and smoke and bullets, succeeded in cutting one of the locks before scorching heat forced him to flee the building for some air.
Pat caught his breath in a few seconds and ran back in and managed to slice the final lock and release the rest of the hostages as the building began to collapse. He received orders to evacuate, but he refused to do so.
Not wanting to leave anyone behind, Pat ran back into the burning building two more times. He saved multiple hostages, and he was the last man to leave.
Payne, who is currently assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, received the highest military award from the President on September 11, 2020.
The Congressional Medal of Honor citation reads in part, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on October 22, 2015.
His heroism and selfless actions were key to liberating 75 hostages during a contested rescue mission that resulted in 20 enemies killed in action.
Sergeant First Class Payne’s gallantry under fire and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the United States Special Operations Command, and the United States Army.”