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On the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, President Trump plans to award the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Sgt. Major Thomas Payne for conspicuous gallantry for his role in leading a dangerous nighttime raid in Iraq that freed 75 hostages.
The White House announced that Payne would be receiving the award on Thursday, calling praising the solider for his “speed, audacity, and courage.”
“Sergeant Payne’s extraordinary heroism and selfless actions were key to liberating 75 hostages during a contested rescue mission that resulted in 20 enemy fighters killed in action,” the White House said in a statement.
Payne led an assault team during a nighttime hostage rescue mission in Iraq’s Kirkuk Province in October 2015. After he and his team cleared one building – and freed 38 hostages – the sergeant responded to call for assistance in clearing another building.
After engaging in fire with enemy combatants, he broke the lock on the door of another building, which allowed fellow soldiers to breach the room before Payne could lead the evacuation of hostages as the building was collapsing.
“Sergeant Payne knowingly risked his own life by bravely entering the building under intense enemy fire, enduring smoke, heat, and flames to identify the armored door imprisoning the hostages,” the White House said. “His courageous actions motivated the coalition assault team members to enter the breach and assist with cutting the locks.”
In this image from video provided by the U.S. Army, then-Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Payne is interviewed as a winner of the 2012 Best Ranger competition at Fort Benning, Ga., on April 16, 2012. Payne will receive the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest honor for valor in combat, for actions during a daring 2015 raid in Iraq that rescued about 70 hostages who were set to be executed by ISIS militants, The Associated Press has learned. Sgt. Maj. Payne will receive the honor in a White House ceremony on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (Lori Egan/U.S., Army via AP)
The awarding of the Medal of Honor – the highest decoration a member of the military can be given – will be part of a busy day for Trump, who also plans to visit the site of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.
Flight 93 was hijacked by al Qaeda terrorists on Sept., 11, 2001, and is believed to have been intended to hit the U.S. Capitol building before crashing in a Somerset County field after passengers attempted to retake the aircraft.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also plans to visit the site on Sept. 11.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.