President Obama shined a spotlight on a "special breed of warrior" as he awarded the nation's highest military honor Monday to a Navy SEAL who participated in a daring 2012 raid that rescued an American hostage in Afghanistan. Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers Jr. is the first living, active-duty member of the Navy to receive the Medal of Honor in four decades. "Today's ceremony is truly unique, a rare opportunity for the American people to get a glimpse of a special breed of warrior who so often serves in the shadows," Obama said, calling the ceremony perhaps the largest gathering of special-ops members in the history of the White House. Byers participated in the rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph, who was abducted along with his driver and interpreter. The rescue was undertaken three days after the abduction by the Navy's famed SEAL Team 6.
Obama recounted during the ceremony how the SEAL team rushed the building where Joseph was taken. Byers ripped down a layer of blankets, exposing himself to enemy fire. A teammate pushed in and was shot. Byers moved in next and fired at a guard. Hearing English, Byers threw himself on the hostage, using his body to shield Joseph from the bullets, Obama said. Another enemy fighter appeared, and with his bare hands, Byers pinned the fighter to the wall and held him until his teammates took action. "It was over almost as soon as it began. In just minutes, by going after those guards, Ed saved the lives of several teammates, and that hostage," Obama said. Byers said the true hero was his wounded colleague, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, 28, who died: "He died to bring back another American," Byers said in a statement. (Read more Medal of Honor stories.)