President Obama presents the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 13. White risked his life to save comrades during a November 2007 ambush in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. (Reuters News Service)
Those who run into Kyle White, an investment analyst, at his work in Charlotte, N.C., may not realize it right away, but they are in select company.
White is one of seven living recipients of the Medal of Honor — America’s highest military award — who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
White, who retired from the Army in 2011, was recognized by President Obama in a Tuesday afternoon White House ceremony for the heroic actions he performed in 2007 when American forces he was a part of were ambushed in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.
What White did in November 2007 in Afghanistan was remarkable. That he survived the ordeal was even more remarkable.
According to information from the White House, the 14-member U.S. military team that then-Army Sgt. White was a member of and a squad of Afghan soldiers were heading into an area known by the military as “ambush alley” when they came under fire. White was knocked out from the force of an exploding grenade. When he awoke, most of his team had been forced into the valley below, but he spotted Spc. Kain Schilling using a tree for cover as he tried to treat his shattered arm. White braved enemy fire to run to Schilling’s side and apply a tourniquet.
Thirty feet behind them, he spotted Marine Sgt. Phillip Bocks in the open, unable to get to any cover. According to President Obama’s comments at the ceremony, White decided he wouldn’t survive the ordeal and felt he should help his teammates while he could.
He ran to Bocks and began pulling him to safety. Enemy fire followed him, so he darted back to cover to pull the gunfire away from Bocks. He ran back and forth several times, slowly moving Bocks to cover.
“Kyle could feel the pressure of the rounds going by him,” the president said. “But somehow, miraculously, they never hit him. Not once. One of his teammates said it was as if Kyle was moving ‘faster than a speeding bullet.’”
“… And finally, Kyle succeeded in pulling his comrade to cover. Tragically, there on that cliff, Sergeant Bocks succumbed to his wounds. But in his final moments, this American Marine surely found some solace in Kyle White — the American soldier who, until the very end, was there by his side”
White returned to Schilling’s side and, finding Schilling had been wounded now in the leg, used his belt for a tourniquet. He got a working radio and called in airstrikes, using the small tree for cover. He stayed with Schilling and, as night fell and he began to feel the effects of his own concussion more, ordered the Afghan soldiers to form a perimeter and called in a medical evacuation unit. He waited until the injured had been moved before he allowed himself to be airlifted from the battlefield.
Six of the 14 U.S. military personnel had been killed in the ambush.
After the ambush, Obama noted, White served the rest of his 15-month deployment in Afghanistan before returning to the States, where he trained other young paratroopers. When he left the Army, White used the GI Bill to get a college degree, then obtained employment with a Charlotte bank.
“And if you look closely at that man in the suit on his way to work,” Obama noted, “you’ll notice the piece of the war that he carries with him tucked under his shirt sleeve — a stainless steel bracelet around his wrist etched with the names of his six fallen comrades who will always be with him. ‘Their sacrifice motivates me,’ he says, to ‘be the best [that] I can be. Everything I do in my life is done to make them proud.’”
Indeed, White has done exactly that and more. He is a hero who has made America proud.
— The Albany Herald Editorial Board