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Ten months after the devastating Sept. 11 terror attacks of 2001, a young then-18-year-old named Thomas Patrick Payne began basic training at the Fort Benning Army base in Georgia with one goal in mind: To serve America, no matter the sacrifices.
And sacrifice he did, with Payne nearly losing his leg when an enemy grenade exploded near him while he was serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
Yet even with an injured leg, he continued serving. And in the process, he wound up becoming a hero deserving of a Medal of Honor.
Listen below as President Donald Trump recounts Payne’s life story during a White House Medal of Honor Ceremony that was held Friday:
According to the president, Payne’s story began the day of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
“Exactly 19 years ago today — on September 11th, 2001 — news of the attack on our nation’s great, great country — this was just an attack like has never happened to us. But it went through Pat’s high school — and went through his classroom,” he said.
“And Pat was sitting there, listening. His teacher solemnly told the students that their generation had a fight to win. They were going to fight and fight to win. In that moment, Pat was called to action. He knew that his country needed him.”
About a decade later in Afghanistan, he sustained his leg injury when shrapnel from a grenade was permanently embedded in it. While recovering, he met his wife, Alison.
“Well, that was probably not a bad wound then, was it? Huh? It was worth — I hope you’re going to say it was worth it. It was,” the president joked during the ceremony.
“Less than two years after being injured, Pat competed against some of America’s toughest warriors and won the prestigious Best Ranger Competition, among the most grueling physical contests anywhere in the country,” Trump continued.
Then came Payne’s 14th deployment in October of 2015.
Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, who risked his life to save dozens of hostages facing imminent execution by ISIS fighters will be awarded the Medal of Honor. For more information about Sgt. Maj. Thomas P. Payne’s heroic actions, visit: https://t.co/kX4D5NNjrg pic.twitter.com/vSW5Z5tkJ7
— SecArmy (@SecArmy) September 5, 2020
“Pat was part of a team assigned to plan and conduct an operation to rescue over 70 Kurdish prisoners being held by ISIS barbarians in Iraq. The team soon received horrifying intelligence that the terrorists were planning to massacre their captives and bury them in freshly dug graves. Pat and his teammates raced into action,” the president said.
Sometime after midnight on Oct. 22, 2015, Payne “boarded a helicopter and departed on a mission to free the hostages from two buildings guarded by dozens of ruthless and bloodthirsty ISIS terrorists.”
He was reportedly in command of the team, and it was his job to figure out a way to save the hostages before the ISIS extremists murdered them.
Learn more about his story below:
“As soon as the ramp to his helicopter went down, Pat rushed into a blistering hail of gunfire. Pat and his team swiftly overpowered the enemy, secured the building, and freed 38 of the hostages,” the president’s story continued.
But he wasn’t done yet.
After receiving word that other members of his team were “facing harsh resistance” in another sector of the compound, he rushed off to save them as well.
“He saw that the other building was on fire and he knew more of the hostages were still trapped inside. He and his team climbed up ladders to the roof and opened up fire on the enemy. Multiple ISIS fighters detonated suicide vests, ripping a portion of the building into pieces,” the president recounted.
“But Pat and his fellow Rangers fought through the fire, the bullets, and the deadly blasts. Pat navigated to the front door and saw the captives were being held behind a metal door secured by two very heavy padlocks. He grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and ran through smoldering flame and smoke.”
Even with bullets raining down on him, Payne “succeeded in cutting one of the locks before scorching, sweltering heat forced him to leave the building for some air.”
After catching his breath and recovering, the dedicated Army Ranger rushed back in to slice the final lock and release the rest of the hostages.
That was when he received orders to evacuate. But he refused …
“[H]e didn’t want to leave anyone behind,” according to the president, so “Pat ran back into the burning building that was collapsing two more times.”
In the process, he and his team wound up saving 75 hostages and killing 20 ISIS terrorists, thus making it “one of the largest and most daring rescue missions in American history,” according to the president.
The situation could have turned out drastically different had the team been led by a different leader, or had the team members themselves not been up for the job.
“As a kid, I wanted to be like a G.I. Joe. I was always fascinated with the military,” Payne said recently in a U.S. Army interview.
But thanks to him, kids across the country may now grow up wanting to be just like G.I. Payne.
Baddest of asses https://t.co/GDd9aLYzCV
— Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) September 11, 2020
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