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Medal of Honor recipient describes dramatic Taliban rescue operation

Edward Byers, a member of Navy SEAL Team Six, used his body to protect an American hostage during a Taliban rescue mission back in 2012
Edward Byers, a member of Navy SEAL Team Six,... 02:50

WASHINGTON -- To call Edward Byers a combat veteran doesn't come close. He has five Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. And he's done nine combat tours.

In 2012 as a member of SEAL Team Six, he was sent to rescue an American, Dr. Dilip Joseph, who had been kidnapped by the Taliban.

As they approached the building, the point man saw they had been detected.

"He saw a guard come out of the door and he shot him and we started sprinting towards the door," Byers explained.

The point man, Nicholas Checque, went in first -- but he was shot and later died.

"I was the second person in," Byers said. "When I entered in the room, I saw another enemy standing there with a weapon and I shot him."

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"And then I saw another person that was moving across the floor. Didn't know whether or not that person was the American hostage or if he was an enemy, and so I moved towards him and I was able to get on top of him and pin him down with my legs," he continued.

Byers was adjusting his night vision goggles, trying to get a better look at the person beneath him, when he heard Dr. Joseph call out from another part of the room.

"That's when I shot the person that I was on top of and jumped off of him, and then onto the doctor who was like three to five feet away."

"I did that because I'm wearing body armor and I want to protect him from any other potential threats," Byers said of why he jumped on Dr. Joseph.

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"When I did that, I realized that there was another enemy within arm's reach of where we're laying, so I was able to hold him against the wall by grabbing him around the throat. That gave enough time for our teammates to get in there and take care of the threat."

When Byers says "take care of the threat," he means his SEAL teammates shot the enemy while Byers had him pinned by the throat against the wall.

When it was over, five Taliban and one Navy SEAL, Nicholas Checque, lay dead or dying. Dr. Joseph was shaken but alive.

Edward Byers, a Navy Seal who used his body a... 20:47

"It probably took a minute to actually go in the room and take care of everything," Byers told CBS News. That's a lot of action going on in a very small space.

"That's the nature of this job. It's close-quarters combat." And it takes longer to tell that story than it did to happen.

Now there is a Medal of Honor to go with those five Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. You have to wonder how many other minutes of close-quarters combat Edward Byers saw in his nine combat tours.

One thing is for sure: he'll never tell.

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