Posted on September 10, 2020 8:00 pm

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President Trump on Friday presented the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award of valor, to Sgt. Maj. Thomas Payne, recognizing his conspicuous gallantry and selflessness in rescuing 75 hostages from execution by the Islamic State terror group.

The ceremony began at about 3p.m. Friday with a prayer, then remarks from the president.

Payne’s wife and 6-year-old son attended the White House ceremony and sat among U.S. generals as Trump commended Payne for leading for what he called “one of the largest and most daring rescue missions in American history.”

“Pat and his team rescued 75 captives and killed 20 ISIS terrorists,” the president said. “Pat you embody the righteous glory of American valor. We stand in awe of your heroic, daring and gallant deeds. You truly went above and beyond the call of duty to earn our nation’s highest military honor.

On October 22, 2015, the mission Operation Inherent Resolve launched in the middle of the night. With speed and courage, then-Sgt. 1st Class Payne led a combined assault team to clear two buildings in which ISIS hostages were being held in Iraq.

After his team liberated 38 captives from the first building, Payne went to assist the other members in the second building, leaving his secured position and exposing himself to the enemy’s fire.

Payne knowingly risked his own life entering the second building, which had gone up into flames amid the grenade and enemy fires, in an attempt to rescue all hostages before the structure collapsed.

“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.

The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who demonstrate great personal bravery or self-sacrifice. Payne, 36, is the first recipient of the award in the fight against the Islamic State.

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