“The Pittsburgh Steelers chose to wear the name of Antwon Rose Jr., a Black teenager killed by East Pittsburgh police in 2018, on the backs of their helmets for the entire 2020 season,” according to ESPN. During their week 1 victory over the New York Giants, however, it was noticed that this wasn’t the case for every player on the Steelers roster.
Steelers’ left tackle Alejandro Villanueva taped over the name of Antwon Rose Jr. and replaced it with a different name. Alwyn Cashe has been the name on Villanueva’s helmet during the Steelers first three games of the 2020 season.
Alwyn Cashe was nominated for the Silver Star for his actions as a soldier in Iraq. There is a petition, which Villanueva supports, to instead award his memory and bravery with the Medal of Honor. Cashe would be the first Black recipient of the Medal of Honor in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Acting as Platoon Sergeant of 1st Platoon of Alpha Company from Forward Operating Base Mackenzie, Sergeant First Class Cashe departed Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mackenzie
burned. Cashe dragged rescued soldiers from the burning vehicle, returning multiple times to continue to pull troops from the burning vehicle, all the while afire himself. Cashe rescued 6 soldiers from the flames and denied medical evacuation until others were evacuated. The interpreter was killed in the action, with 10 soldiers wounded, 7 severely.
October 17, 2005 on a route clearance mission in the city of Daliaya, Iraq. Cashe was in the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicle when it struck an Improvised Explosive Device, rupturing the vehicle’s fuel cell, covering Cashe in fuel, and causing the vehicle to burst into flames.
Cashe, initially slightly injured, exited the vehicle and assisted the vehicle’s driver to exit the burning Bradley and extinguish the flames on his clothes. Six soldiers and an interpreter remained in the rear of the vehicle, which was in flames. Cashe moved to the rear of the vehicle and reached into the flames to remove injured soldiers, while his fuel-soaked uniform
Cashe was burned over 72% of his body. He succumbed to his injuries November 8, 2005 at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He was survived by his wife and children.
“The decision had to do exclusively with Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe and his pursuit for the Medal of Honor, which is something that he deserves and hopefully he’ll get soon,” Villanueva said Monday to ESPN.
“I felt that my decision to honor Sgt. First Class Alwyn Cashe was something that was very personal to me due to the fact that in the veteran community, there’s a strong push to get him a Medal of Honor, which is something that the community believes that he deserves,” said Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan. “I think that the timing was perfect due to the fact that it gave the lawmakers a little bit of momentum going forward. The family has been waiting for 15 years to hear something from his chain of command, from Congress regarding the exception of his five-year statutory limit that could potentially get him the Medal of Honor.”
Soldiers earning the Medal of Honor, as currently written in law, must be nominated within five years of their act of heroism. Congress would have to pass legislation changing this rule to allow Cashe to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions and bravery.
Villanueva, a former Army Ranger and United State veteran, plans to continue to fight for Cashe’s nomination for the Medal of Honor. There is also a petition for Alwyn Chase the Medal of Honor on Change.org which can be signed here to show your support.