WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — South Carolina soldier Thomas Patrick Payne stood in the East Room of the White House on Friday as President Donald Trump presented him with the highest military honor.
Payne received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in October 2015 when he led a rescue mission that ended in the freeing of 75 hostages from ISIS control.
“When we opened the prison doors, you see the faces light up. They realize that they’re being liberated cause chances are they’re going to be executed the next day,” Army Sgt. Major Payne recalled.
Payne first rescued 38 hostages before saving a second group that was trapped inside a burning building.
“We still have hostages we need to liberate,” Payne said.
Payne then went back inside one last time to make sure everyone was out.
“It was our duty to bring those men home to give them a second chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.
Payne received the Medal of Honor at the White House exactly 19 years after the September 11 terror attacks on the United States. The attacks are what Payne says inspired him to serve his country.
“When the towers fell when I was a senior in high school, it was a call to service and love for country,” Payne said.
Payne’s career has spanned 17 deployments. He is now the first living Delta Force member to receive the Medal of Honor.
“Pat, you personify the motto rangers lead the way and you inspire us all,” President Trump said.
Payne said he just wants to “be a man that wears it well…and represents the Army.”