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Obama Awards Navy SEAL Highest Honor For Afghanistan Rescue

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr., undated.

U.S. President Barack Obama has awarded the country's highest honor for valor to a Navy SEAL who used his body to shield an American hostage during a rescue operation in Afghanistan.

Edward Byers, 36, was the sixth Navy SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor. Obama said SEALs serve in the shadows and rarely get public acknowledgement for their sacrifice.

"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," Obama said. "We sleep more peacefully in our beds tonight, because patriots like these stand ready to answer our nation's call and protect our way of life."

Byers in December 2012 was part of a mission to rescue Dilip Joseph, an American doctor taken hostage in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

During the rescue, one SEAL was fatally shot. Byers flung himself onto Joseph to shield the doctor from gunfire while at the same time pinning a Taliban fighter against a wall.

His actions "saved the lives of several teammates -- and that hostage," Obama said.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP