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Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne received the Medal of Honor Sept. 11, 2020 at the White House for liberating over 70 hostages from an ISIS prison in Iraq five years ago.
Payne, of Lugoff, South Carolina, was inspired by 9/11 to serve his country and shipped out for basic training ten months after, fresh out of high school.
President Donald Trump decorated Payne’s neck with the nation’s highest military award for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” as the Official Citation reads. During a “daring” nighttime hostage rescue in Kirkuk Province, Iraq as part of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE on Oct. 22, 2015, Payne led a combined assault team to clear one of two buildings known to house hostages.
Video courtesy of the United States Army.
Engaged with enemy fighters, Payne climbed a ladder to the building’s roof, partially in flames, and continued the assault with grenades and small arms fire, according to the United States Army.
Back on the ground, he “bravely” entered the main entrance under intense enemy fire, enduring smoke, heat, and flames to identify the armored door imprisoning the hostages. He acquired bolt cutters, handing off his weapon, and while ignoring enemy rounds striking the walls around him cut the final locks freeing 37 hostages.
With the enflamed building threatening collapse, Payne exposed himself to enemy fire and reentered the building freeing a total of 75 hostages during a contested rescue that resulted in 20 enemies killed in action.
The Official Citation reads that 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.
Payne is married with three children.
Feature photo: President Donald Trump awards the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne at the White House, Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 2020. (Photo Credit: Spc. Zachery Perkins)
Article by Sandhills Sentinel Journalism Intern Stephanie M. Sellers.
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