Navy SEAL who rescued American hostage awarded US Medal of Honor

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NTP: Navy SEAL Edward Byers who rescued American hostage awarded U.S. Medal of Honor
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Navy SEAL who rescued American hostage awarded US Medal of Honor
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Byers received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama and Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers arrive for a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, where the president presented Byers with the Medal of Honor. U.S. Navy. Senior Chief Byers receives the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 29: Navy Senior Chief Edward Byers Jr., 36, participates in his Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. A member of Navy SEAL Team 6, Byers received the Medal of Honor for his role in rescuing an American hostage from the Taliban in Afghanistan in December 2012. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama, center, stands with Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, left, before presenting him with the Medal of Honor to during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. U.S. Navy. Senior Chief Byers receives the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers pauses during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, where President Barack Obama presented him with the Medal of Honor. Navy Senior Chief Byers received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The shadow of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers is cast on the Medal of Honor Flag during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, where President Barack Obama presented him with the Medal of Honor. U.S. Navy. Senior Chief Byers received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama and Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, left, bow their hears in prayer before the president presents Byers with the Medal of Honor to during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. U.S. Navy Senior Chief Byers receives the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
US Navy Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator, Edward Byers is seen during his Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, before the presenting the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers. U.S. Navy. Senior Chief Byers received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 29: The Medal of Honor that will be awarded to Navy Senior Chief Edward Byers Jr., is displayed during the ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. A member of Navy SEAL Team 6, Byers received the Medal of Honor for his role in rescuing an American hostage from the Taliban in Afghanistan in December 2012. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, February 29, 2016. Navy Senior Chief Byers is received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 29: U.S. President Barack Obama presents Navy Senior Chief Edward Byers Jr., 36, with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. A member of Navy SEAL Team 6, Byers received the Medal of Honor for his role in rescuing an American hostage from the Taliban in Afghanistan in December 2012. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama applauds after presenting the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, February 29, 2016. Navy Senior Chief Byers received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama applauds after presenting the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. U.S. Navy. Senior Chief Byers received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama looks to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers after presenting him with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. U.S. Navy. Senior Chief Byers receives the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama applauds after presenting the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. U.S. Navy. Senior Chief Byers received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A photo provided Feb. 24, 2016 by the US Navy shows Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. Byers will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Byers is receiving the medal for his actions during a 2012 rescue operation in Afghanistan. (U.S. Navyvia AP)
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday awarded the country's highest honor for valor to Navy SEAL Edward Byers, who used his body to shield an American hostage from gunfire during a rescue operation in Afghanistan.

Byers, 36, was the sixth Navy SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor and 11th living service member to be awarded the honor for actions in Afghanistan.

Obama said the White House ceremony for Byers offered a rare public opportunity to acknowledge the work of the military's special operations forces, who often serve in the shadows.

"We may not always hear of their success, but they are there in thick of the fight, in the dark of night, achieving their mission," Obama said. "We sleep more peacefully in our beds tonight, because patriots like these stand ready to answer our nation's call and protect our way of life, now and forever."

Byers, who joined the Navy in 1998 and has been deployed overseas 11 times, was honored for his actions during a December 2012 mission to rescue Dilip Joseph, an American doctor taken hostage in Afghanistan.

Held in a remote valley, in a small single-room building surrounded by the Taliban, Joseph had been told by his captors the Americans were not coming for him.

"Well, they were wrong," Obama said.

Byers and his team moved under the cover of darkness to the building where Joseph was held, but were spotted by a guard when they were about 25 meters (yards) away, according to an account on the Navy's website.

The SEALs rushed to the doorway and Byers ripped down the six layers of blankets that covered the entryway. Another member of Byers' SEAL team, Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque, entered the building and was immediately shot. Checque later died from his wound.

When Byers entered the building, he engaged in hand-to-hand combat with one guard, then flung his body on top of Joseph to shield him from the firefight in the room.

While shielding Joseph, Byers fought with another guard and was able to pin him to the wall.

"In just minutes, by going after those guards, Ed saved the lives of several teammates - and that hostage," Obama said.

President Obama Awards Medal of Honor

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