A Navy SEAL killed during a 2012 rescue of an American hostage in Afghanistan demonstrated "unhesitant commitment" and "undaunted courage" during his final moments, according to a Navy Cross medal citation newly obtained by Military.com.
Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque's posthumous receipt of the military's second-highest combat honor had never been publicly announced until his teammate, Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward Byers Jr., was presented with the Medal of Honor in February. Both men were part of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team Six, when they conducted a high-stakes night raid Dec. 8, 2012 to rescue Dr. Dilip Joseph, a civilian doctor and director of a charitable organization, who had been taken hostage by the Taliban days before.
While Byers received the military's highest honor for aggressively disabling enemy attackers while shielding the doctor with his own body, Checque, 28, was the first member of the team to charge the enemy compound.
According to his citation, which has never previously been publicly released, Checque led the team as it approached the compound where Joseph was being held. Aerial surveillance alerted the SEALs to an active guard outside the building, making the team's approach even more risky.
"In the final steps of the assault, a guard in the courtyard identified the approaching rescue force, and darted into the building," the citation reads. "Chief Petty Officer Cheque instinctively pursued and engaged a guard who peered from a doorway. Realizing the Taliban guards had been alerted and the hostage's life was in imminent danger, Chief Petty Officer Cheque unhesitatingly sprinted to the door and made entry."
This charge gave enemy fighters the opportunity to fire on Checque at close range, and he received a mortal head wound from an AK-47.
Checque's sacrifice was key to the success of the daring rescue, Navy brass found.
"His bravery and unhesitant commitment in pursuit of the target was pivotal in saving the American hostage and the ultimate success of the overall mission," the citation reads. "By his undaunted courage, bold initiative, and complete dedication to duty, [Checque] reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
Checque's Navy Cross may be one of more than half a dozen awarded quietly since 2001 and not previously publicly documented due to missions that were covert or classified, according to Doug Sterner, who curates the online military awards database Hall of Valor. Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show Checque's award was approved October 2014.
But at his own February 29 Medal of Honor ceremony, Byers took time to honor Checque and dedicate the medal to him.
"He lived his life as a warrior, he carried out countless missions selflessly and fearlessly," Byers said. "He paid the ultimate sacrifice that day, so I want to personally thank his family ... thoughts of Nic and other brothers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice I believe is what will carry me through bearing the responsibilities that come with this honor."