On Jan. 13, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presented eight Navy Crosses and eight Silver Stars to active-duty and former members of East and West Coast Naval Special Warfare Commands at a ceremony in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
One Navy Cross and one Silver Star were presented posthumously, including an upgrade from a Silver Star to a Navy Cross for SEAL Charles Keating, IV, who was killed during an ambush in northern Iraq while assisting anti-ISIS Peshmerga forces.
The upgrade for Keating was first reported by Stars and Stripes.
"Today we honor some of our nation's finest heroes, not just for their individual acts of courage and bravery in the face of danger, but for the everyday selflessness that they and their peers demonstrate," Mabus said. "This generation of Sailors, and particularly those serving as part of our Naval Special Warfare team, is an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country."
These awards were upgrades to previously awarded medals for valor in combat and upgraded as a result of the Department of the Navy's Post 9/11 Valor Awards Review Panel. This panel reviewed award nominations from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure members were appropriately recognized for acts of valor.
The Navy did not disclose the names of the SEALs whose awards were upgraded.
According to Keating's Silver Star citation, he lead Peshmerga fighters in repelling an assault by 100 ISIS fighters, including intercepting a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device with sniper fire and rockets. Keating's actions occurred in March 2016, two months before he was killed.
"Although today we recognize these individuals for their heroism and valor in combat, we are also honoring the Sailors and Marines who fought beside them and those who are still in the fight," Mabus said.
The Department of the Navy reviewed more than 300 valor awards and the review was completed Nov. 15.
The Navy Cross, the U.S. Navy's second highest decoration, is awarded for extraordinary heroism while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. The act must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.
The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations with a friendly force. It is the fourth highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and the third highest award for valor.