Ed Byers, SEAL, MOH: “I’m not a hero.”

He'll be cleaned up pretty good when the President meets him.

He’ll be cleaned up pretty good when the President meets him, but this is what he looked like — except for some classified details that have been blurred out — over there.

This is a man you should know, but he says someone else is someone you should know.

[Senior Chief Ed] Byers, 36, learned in December that he would receive the nation’s highest honor for military valor. Yet, he insists he’s not a hero.

The heroes are his fellow SEALs, especially the ones killed in the line of duty, Byers said. That includes his good friend Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque, who was mortally wounded serving as the point man on that rescue mission in December 2012. The 28-year-old Checque was the first man through the door during the rescue of Joseph and was shot just after sprinting into the building where the doctor was being held.

“Nic embodied exactly what it is to be an American hero,” Byers said in the video. “He will forever be remembered in the pages of history for the sacrifices that he made.”

via Navy SEAL, to receive Medal of Honor Monday, tells his story – Navy – Stripes.

This is the kind of quiet professionalism that most Navy SEALs and other special operators uphold every day. You’ll probably never hear a peep from Ed after today’s ceremony, until he retires, and maybe not even then.

Ah, yeah. Today’s ceremony? The President is going to gong him, with the big one.

He has a reason to be lookin' tacticool. CQB rig: Mk12, suppressor (Knight's?) EOTech, magnifier, IR/visible laser/illuminator, PMag.

He has a reason to be lookin’ tacticool. CQB rig: Mk12, suppressor (Knight’s?) EOTech, magnifier, IR/visible laser/illuminator, PMag.

In a world where it seems that every SEAL has his own publicist and literary agent, and where there have been nasty fallings-out among members of the SEAL world, the momentary uncloaking of Edward C. Byers Jr, Special Operations Senior Chief, is a timely reminder that for every SEAL you have heard of, there are thousands you have not, all of whom are men you would respect, if circumstances permitted you to know them.

In Ed’s commitment to return to just “being a SEAL,” we’re reminded of the late Jon Cavaiani, who insisted he could serve as command sergeant major of a clandestine element, even though his Medal of Honor rendered him higher-profile than the unit liked. (Jon won his argument with the then-CO and served and no one heard a peep out of him or the unit the whole time. Mission first, always).

Do Read The Whole Thing™ and also, read the sidebar on Byers’s opinions of the recent SEAL stylin’-n-profilin’ phenomenon (an opinion we have heard expressed, forcefully, by his fellow professional frogmen). He’s not a fan of tell-all frog books:

I’ve been in the military almost 18 years. I’ve lived a very quiet life. I’m not exactly sure what their motives are and what they’re trying to accomplish by writing those. I’ve never read their books. I have no plans in the future to write a book or do a movie or anything like that. It’s not what I believe in.

We are currently facing one of the greatest threats to our nation that we’ve ever seen. Anything that you could write about or talk about that could help our enemies when we do combat operations — that could potentially get any of our service members injured or killed — I just don’t think is the right call.

Preach it, cousin.

Also, even if you are not the sort of person who watches embedded videos, do watch the interview of Byers at that first link. It’s perfectly edited, with the interviewer taken out of the frame and off the tape, and just comes across as a stream of commentary from the monumentally modest SEAL.

tridentInteresting fact: of the three Naval personnel to receive the Medal of Honor since 9/11, all have been SEALS… and the other two were slain earning their medal. The Navy has a page for each of the recipients at the link (including one for Byers). And every SEAL you never heard of, like Nic Cheque, puts his life on the line the same way — and sometimes, like Cheque, loses it.

RIP, Nic, warrior and great American. And all hail Ed, who fought at his side and tried to treat his wounds.

As a nation, we are blessed with these men, are we not? Now, let’s leave the man alone to get back to his job.

28 thoughts on “Ed Byers, SEAL, MOH: “I’m not a hero.”

  1. ToastieTheCoastie

    Bravo zulu to the Senior Chief.

    The point about books and movies is taken. However, there is a line between shameless self promotion and telling a good story that other need to hear. It is unfotunate that the vets that have the best stories to tell are often tight lipped out of humility. It’s not bragging if it’s true.

  2. DSM

    I remember my dad reading the obituary of an older gentleman he had worked for a few times over the years and his surprise at learning he was a MoH recipient from WWII. Of course my dad was only there as a plumber not to look at pictures or tell war stories but he said once he found out my dad was a vet too he’d talk about this or that with him, usually just some funny story or anecdote about being a soldier. Never said a thing about it beyond that. That’s how I learned about the Medal of Honor as a kid. I think the Senior Chief was cut from the same cloth of that generation. He was there to do a job, nothing more. He’d never pay for a beer around me.

  3. Buckaroo

    “We are currently facing one of the greatest threats to our nation that we’ve ever seen. Anything that you could write about or talk about that could help our enemies when we do combat operations — that could potentially get any of our service members injured or killed — I just don’t think is the right call.”

    That is very refreshing to read.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Could be. The buttstock is convex like a 416, but you can see the keyhole for the receiver extension/buffer tube, which means, if it’s a 416 stock it’s missing the buttplate.

      2. Miles

        Nope, not a MK18.
        It’s a HK416 with 10.5 inch barrel, and Knights QD suppressor.
        N Battery EoTech with Aimpoint magnifier and LA5/PEQ Laser.
        Buttstock is a LMT which means the 416 is the OTB model. This stock design was later ripped off by Uncle and contracted by B5 as the ‘enhanced’ buttstock. Hopefully LMT’s lawsharks got a good licensing deal.
        There are other, also now obsolete, items that also help date things with high probability that this is the gear set up he had when on the rescue mission.

        1. seans

          Highly doubt it’s the OTB model, they were never popular due to issues it had with the main ammo they ran.

          1. Miles

            Not to be contrary for simple argumentation, but the buttstock is pretty much the dead giveaway.

            There was a lot of ‘cross pollination’ between SMUs to put a term to it because of the higher command’s control of things and 416 models, at the basic bare bones level were actually pretty standard.
            That doesn’t include what a shooter and armorer would work together to achieve.
            Those butt stocks were specific original equipment to the OTB model.
            If one was going to want different on the earlier model, it took a change out of receiver extension and the OTB extension mods were always done, and the replacement barrels had the OTB mod out very early as well.

            The problems you may have heard about were probably due to the early upper receiver design, not the OTB mods or the operational ammo used.

            Also, I never saw, or heard, of any ammunition problems when a 416 was properly maintained and with correct parts used. Unfortunately, the 416 system is one of the harshest I’ve ever seen and causes wear like you wouldn’t believe.

  4. Cap'n Mike

    I was lucky enough to grow up across the street from a guy that earned the Medal of Honor in WWII, and lost his arm in the process.
    As I got older, I was surprised to learn how rare living recipients are to come across, and what a privileged it is to meet one.

    Good Job Chief.

    1. Miles

      If you’ll look up the percentages, you’ll find that, from WW2, the majority of men had the MOH given to their families. With the small numbers awarded since Vietnam, and the death rate of WW2 and Vietnam vets, yes, the living are very special.

  5. Kerry

    In one of my adult woodworking classes, student George came in with his WWII blue hat, printed on it, “George Rice, Silver Star”. “Shit George, you got the Silver Star?”.
    “Yes, I was the .30 cal machine gunner. I got into a duel with a German with a rocket launcher. We went back there a few years ago”. (This was about 1994). “I don’t remember us being quite so close to each other”.
    In another city, another time, a Marine stood up at a meeting, “I fought on Guadalcanal at age 17”. It was as if someone stood up and said they’d fought at Gettysburg.
    Brave men.

    1. Miles

      Yep, that’s a BlackHawk Serpa, which is another dating indicator. A certain MACOM CSM hadn’t gone bugeyed and outlawed them yet.

  6. John Distai

    This is interesting as a couple of days ago I finished the book “Sniper Elite: One Way Trip” by Scott McEwen.
    In the book, a character receives the MOH, “awarded” by the President as a means to “burn” him. I hope that isn’t the case here.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I’ve seen that series of “Sniper Elite” books. The problem is, if a book about a sniper is thrilling, it’ all Hollywood to the max and phony as a politician’s promise. If it’s accurate, it would put most readers dead to sleep. That’s why Stephen Hunter had to keep putting Bob Lee Swagger in crazier and crazier situations (and that’s why they botched the chance at having a movie multi-picture Swagger franchise by layering hollywood on the hollywood).

  7. Boat Guy

    Probably unintended but to call SOCS Beyers a “trained paramedic” is revealing complete ignorance of the 18D, NSW and even FMF courses he went through. Like calling a surgeon who can rebuild your hand a manicurist.
    I’ve had the privilege to call one MoH holder a friend and also to spend some time (far too little) with COL Bob Howard (RIP). “Priviliege” is barely an adequate word.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I was pretty sure that I did not do that, you must be referring to the article I linked. The writer may just have been trying to express it in a way that his or her audience would “get.”

      It used to be each service did its own medical SOF training, and the SEALS used to send the occasional guy to 18D. Not optimal as 18Ds get a lot of stuff (veterinary, ob-gyn, epidemiology and sanitation to name a few subject areas) that just wastes the SR/DA-oriented frogmen’s time. So what the SOF world did is consolidate SOF medical training. The trauma phase and live tissue training, etc., are the same and very good for Army, Navy, Air Force special operators. (I believe the medics in MARSOC are still Navy corpsmen, per usual Marine/Navy practice). Then they get per-service stuff they need. SEALS get dive physiology and dive medic training (certifying as DMTs), PJs get that and high-altitude physiology, etc. And SF guys learn how to deliver babies and care for horses and mules.

      Obviously this is a YUUUUGE superset of what your local EMT-P has in his training basket. But one side effect is that in the 1980s, the lawyers got concerned about something or other, and insisted that SF medics get certified as something or other, and now they (and, I think, the other graduates of the trauma course) are. Not a medic so I don’t really have my fingers on the pulse of this right now, but their attitude at the time seemed to be that certification and periodic recert is a monumental waste of time, especially in the reserve components.

      1. Boat Guy

        No certainly NOT you Hognose! The journo-class refugee working for Stripes…’cause people who read Stripes must not know the difference between “Medic” Corpsman” (hell the CINC doesn’t) and whatever.
        I’ve known and served with a number of 18D’s and (before the “SO” rating) SEAL -qualified HM’s. I would expect that MARSOC is using FMF Corpsmen. The training was much more mission- and service-specific in earlier days as you note. The Team Guys (as in SEALs) i knew who went through the 18D course were pretty stoked about it – especially “Goat Lab”. As we cast-about for good training pre-9/11 we used to send some of the lads into ER rotations as well.

        1. Hognose Post author

          First rule of Goat Lab is…

          And yes, part of the all-services SOF trauma medic today remains trauma lab / live tissue training, and part remains hospital rotation at least for the Ds. I would think the frog docs and PJs (all of whom are medics) do that, too. I dunno if CCT has medics. SOF qualified TACP rely on the medics of the SF, Ragnar, SEAL element. And yeah, the Ragnar docs do the trauma course… pretty sure not the ER rotation.

  8. BillC

    I like how the first picture has the “Peltor 6S” scrubbed from the earmuffs and the watch scrubbed as well. Anyway, this Man of Men is a hero, even if he humbly declines the title.

  9. Dan in Ohio.

    More erosion of the MOH.
    On mission, kills 2 bad guys, chokes another one, uses own body to protect good guy hostage.
    Good job.
    But is this really comparable to WW1,WW2,Korea, and Vietnam awarded MOH’s? HARDLY.
    Compare to John Basilone, WW2 MOH or Robert Howard Vietnam War MOH.
    Ed Byers is a brave man, but his award is a “Quota MOH”.
    Sad.

    1. Hognose Post author

      His SEAL brothers seem to think he deserves it, and they go on a lot of these things.

      I believe he’s the first SEAL since 1972 to live to wear the Medal and I think he will wear it with respect. My own opinion, from a guy whose highest award is the CIB.

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