Tontogany, OH (13abc Action News) - Today President Obama awarded a Northwest Ohio native the Medal of Honor. Navy SEAL Ed Byers was given the military's highest honor during a White House ceremony.
The medal was given to Senior Chief Byers for a 2012 mission.
Byers and his team rescued an American doctor kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan.The President praised Byers for not only going after the captor, but for shielding the doctor from enemy fire with his own body.
Byers grew up in Grand Rapids and still has family here in Northwest Ohio. He's a 1997 graduate of Otsego High School. Students at the school were able to watch the White House ceremony this morning.
Hundreds of students filled the auditorium to watch Byers receive the medal. Teachers say his story includes many lessons they try to share with students every day.
Senior Chief Byers is only the 6th Navy SEAL in history to be awarded The Medal of Honor, Byers is highly decorated for his service to our country. For his 11 overseas deployments, and 9 combat tours, Byers has received 2 purple hearts, and the bronze star with valor 5 times.
President Obama talked about the impressive and selfless service of Byers,"Many of his missions are still classified and his team mates have not been identified.That is as it should be."
The magnitude of this incredible accomplishment wasn't lost on the students at Otsego. Lucy Pullins is a sophomore,"It really is amazing that people can make that kind of a difference in the world. One action can truly change everything."
Cheryl Jones is the Health and Physical Education teacher at Otsego.
She had Byers in class, "Ed was a great young man. He was respectful, polite and very kind. As I was watching the ceremony today, I was thinking, that was one of my students received the highest military honor in the land. I had to keep pinching myself, I was like oh my gosh, that's Eddie!"
Otsego High School Principal Dr. Kevin O'Shea hopes the story of Ed Byers will inspire students to follow their dreams and help others along the way,"We talk about service and sacrifice and putting the needs of others above your own all the time. For the students to see what that philosophy can result in, was a very powerful thing."
The White House ceremony had a big impact on senior Drew Teifke.
After graduation, he will serve in the Marines, "I would leave tomorrow and fight for this country and other members of the military like Ed Byers. It motivates me to do great things and try to excel and maybe make a career out of the military."
Teifke is hoping Byers can one day pay a visit to his hometown, "I bet he has some great stories to tell. Maybe one day he will come back to Grand Rapids and I'll have the honor of meeting him. That would be awesome!"