A White House military aide made an unfortunate slip during Thursday’s Medal of Honor ceremony, announcing a posthumous decoration when the recipient was very much alive.
“Attention to orders,” read Marine Lt. Col. William Kerrigan, military aide to the president. “The president of the United States of America, authorized by act of Congress March 3, 1863, has posthumously awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty.”
As Kerrigan read out the citation, Plumlee stood at attention next to Biden, who proceeded to place the medal around the soldier’s neck.
It was not immediately clear if Kerrigan read the citation incorrectly or if the error was included in the document itself.
Several social media users pinned the blunder on Biden — who has been known to misspeak or make verbal gaffes — despite the president not making the unfortunate remark.
“Clueless Joe,” one user wrote.
“Just Joe being Joe,” another said.
“Biden isn’t even in the same time/space continuum as planet Earth!” one other Twitter user posted.
Plumlee was honored Thursday along with Army Sgt. First Class Alwyn Cashe and Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Celiz — who were decorated posthumously and whose families accepted their medals on their behalf.
Plumlee was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in helping to fight off Taliban suicide bombers as a Special Forces solider in Afghanistan in 2013. Plumlee and five other soldiers drove two vehicles to the site of an explosion on the perimeter of a US base.
Armed with a pistol, Plumlee confronted the insurgents, killing two of them at close range before carrying a wounded soldier to safety and applying first aid. Despite his own injuries, Plumlee later joined American and Polish forces in a counterattack.
In his remarks, Biden said Plumlee’s honor “has been too long in coming” and vowed “no one will ever forget how you sprang into action when the enemy attacked our base.”
Cashe was awarded the Medal of Honor for repeatedly entering a burning vehicle while under attack by enemy small arms fire to save his fellow soldiers in 2005 during the Iraq War, sacrificing his life to do so.
Celiz was posthumously honored for voluntarily exposing himself to enemy fire in Afghanistan in 2018 to retrieve a heavy weapons system, lead a medical evacuation and shield his wounded teammates.