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This Day in History: Hostages rescued in Iraq

On this day in 2015, a hero engages in an action that would earn him the Medal of Honor. Thomas Patrick Payne’s heroism came as he served in Operation Inherent Resolve near Hawija, Iraq.

The mission that day was urgent. Hostages were being held by ISIS, and then-SFC Payne’s special operations task force was working with Kurdish Special Forces to attempt a rescue. Time was of the essence: Freshly dug graves had been spotted outside the prison compound where the hostages were being held. It appeared that executions were imminent.

Things got intense—and quickly—once the rescue team was inserted into the area.

“It’s a complete brown out,” Payne described. “Part of the compound was already in a pretty intense fire fight.”

The forces separated, with half of the team moving toward one building and the other half moving toward another. The first building held 38 hostages, and Payne’s team worked quickly to get them out.