“I prayed the St. Michael prayer while moving into the toughest missions I faced,” Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. said in his acceptance speech for the Medal of Honor, “and it does start by saying ‘St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection…'”

The Medal of Honor is the U.S. military’s highest honor, given for acts of braver above and beyond the normal call of duty. Byers received the award for “his valiant rescue efforts during a hostage situation in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in December 2012.”

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He explained the importance of his Catholic faith. “Hand in hand with my family is my faith. While it has had a more quiet aspect of my life, it has always played a significant role.”

“I grew up Catholic and continue to grow in my faith, thanks especially to my brother, Trevor. He taught me to turn my heart and soul to Christ when I have strayed or lost my way. Prayer has always provided calm amidst chaos for me.”

He told how he came to have a particular devotion to St. Michael the Archangel during his first deployment to Iraq.

“On my first deployment to Iraq, some 11 years ago, I arrived in [the] country, and I saw another SEAL, standing there with a St. Michael the Archangel patch on his shoulder. I’m not sure what drew me to it, but I walked up to him and asked him if I could have it. He was leaving the combat zone and made it through a safe deployment, so he was absolutely willing to give it to me. He handed it to me without hesitation.”

“I’ve worn that patch on my kit on every single mission I’ve ever been a part of.”

“On that day in December 2012 – the day you heard recounted several times about my team, and the way we carried out the mission to rescue [an] American hostage – on that day, just like every day, I prayed. I prayed on the way to my target, and again I prayed over my brother Nicholas Checque, for his soul, as he gave his life to save another American.”

He also humbly deflected special credit for the brave act that earned him the medal, saying, “I want to emphasize that I’m no different than any one of my teammates. I’m certain that any one of them would have taken the same exact actions I did that day. I’ve seen countless heroic acts in my time working with the nation’s most elite operators.”

“May God bless you,” he said in closing, “and may St. Michael the Archangel protect our warriors in battle. Long live the brotherhood. Thank you.”

Here’s a video of the full speech:

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