Live

Watch CBSN Live

Obama awards Medal of Honor to Navy SEAL

President Obama called Navy SEAL Edward Byers a "consummate, quiet professional" when he awarded him the Medal of Honor Monday at the White House for his role in a 2012 raid that rescued an American hostage in Afghanistan.

Byers threw himself on the hostage to protect him from heavy gunfire and then neutralized one of the Taliban guards, helping save the lives of several of his fellow SEALs. They successfully rescued Dilip Joseph, an American doctor who was captured by the Taliban outside Kabul.

Surviving the Taliban: U.S. doctor on captivity, dramatic rescue

He became the first living, active-duty member of the Navy to receive the award in four decades.

The ability to be a quiet professional is what drew Byer to the SEALs originally, he told CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

"Our community embodies the quiet professional. It's the reason I came in, the reason I wanted to be a Navy SEAL. I liked everything that the community stood for," he said. "Knowing that you're going to represent the Navy and the Navy special warfare community, I can only hope that I do it in a manner that my brothers that I work with feel is up to their standard."

More of Martin's interview with Byers will air on the CBS Evening News at 6:30 p.m.

While Byers' quick thinking saved many of his fellow soldiers, one of them, Nicolas Checque, was killed during the firefight. Checque was a member of the special operations team that killed Osama bin Laden.

"It absolutely was worth it," Byers told Martin. "We accomplished our mission, and that's what we do. We're given a mission, we're given a task, and we accomplish it no matter what it takes."

He called Checque "a true American hero."

"The guy gave his life to rescue another American and that's what we do. He will be forever remembered for that," he said.

Byers has served nine combat tours.

"In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our nation's call; a common man with uncommon desire to succeed; forged by adversity, he stands alongside America's finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people and protect their way of life. Senior chief Edward Byers, Jr. is such a man. Chief petty officer Nicolas Checque was that man," Mr. Obama said. "The American people may not always seen them we may not always hear of their success, but they are there in the thick of the fight, in the dark of night achieving their mission. We thank god they're there."

View CBS News In