by Kaylee Greenlee
An Army sergeant major who rescued around 75 hostages from being executed by ISIS fighters in Iraq will be awarded the Medal of Honor on Friday, the U.S. Army announced on Tuesday.
Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne ran through a burning building and enemy gunfire with a pair of bolt cutters to free the hostages during a rescue mission, according to the Army.
Payne, 36, was sent home from Iraq after a grenade blast shattered one of his knees in the summer of 2010, according to the Army. He made a full recovery while in his parent’s care and returned to the Army in 2015 when he and others rescued the hostages from ISIS fighters.
“There comes a time when sympathy is over,” Payne said, the Army reported. “It’s time to get to work and get back out there.”
Payne’s unit was deployed in Iraq when they received an alert from the Kurdish Regional Government that Iraqi security forces had been captured and were facing execution by ISIS fighters inside a Hawija prison, according to the Army.
“Our partners came to us for assistance and we’re not going to let them down,” Payne said., according to the Army. “Time was of the essence. There were freshly dug graves. If we didn’t action this raid, then the hostages were likely to be executed.”
The unit was given a week to plan the rescue mission, which took place on Oct. 22, 2015, according to the Army.
Payne’s unit cleared the building and freed around 40 hostages before responding to a request for backup from the other half of the group who faced heavy enemy fire, according to the Army.
Payne ran through the burning building under enemy fire with a pair of bolt cutters to free the remaining hostages, according to the Army.
“My focus was the hostages,” Payne said, according to the Army. “That was our mission.”
Payne attempted to enlist with the Marine Corps shortly after the 9/11 attacks when he was 17-years-old, though his mom would not sign his waiver, the Army reported.
“As a kid, I wanted to be like a G.I. Joe,” Payne said, according to the Army. “I was always fascinated with the military.”
Payne decided to join the Army after seeing highlights from the Army’s Best Ranger Competition on ESPN just before his 18th birthday, according to the Army. His recruiters reportedly told Payne, “you were our last pick, we didn’t expect you to make it.”
“I was given an opportunity and sometimes that’s all you need to prove yourself,” Payne said, according to the Army.
Payne went on to win the Army’s Best Ranger Competition in 2012, according to the Army.
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Kaylee Greenlee is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Thomas Payne” by U.S. Army