MOH to be accepted in memory of six who perished in ambush
April 23, 2014
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 23, 2013) -- Former Sgt. Kyle J. White said that when he accepts the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in a few weeks, he will do so in honor of the five Soldiers and one Marine "who gave their lives in the defense of freedom and the American way of life."
White spoke at a press conference today at the National Guard Center in Charlotte, N.C., near where he now lives. White was just 20 when he was deployed to Afghanistan. On Nov. 9, 2007, his 14-man unit and squad of Afghan soldiers was brutally ambushed on three sides by Taliban fighters on a path descending from the village of Aranas into a valley.
"On May 13th when I'm awarded the Medal of Honor, I will tell their stories and preserve their memories… they will not be forgotten," the Seattle native told the press and bloggers. "Their sacrifice and the sacrifices of so many others is what motivates me to wake up each and every day to be the best I can. Everything I do in my life is done to make them proud."
White was asked how strong the memory of the battle is now, after almost seven years, during which time he attained a bachelor's degree and became an investment analyst for a major bank.
"I would say for the first couple of years, memories were more vivid than today. As time goes on certain things you think about less and less, but at any given moment I can close my eyes and hear the sounds and smell the gunpowder in the air; but six and a half years later, I don't think about it as much as I used to," he said.
He did share that there were two things he can always visualize as if it were yesterday -- when he looked up from applying his last tourniquet to wounded Marine Sgt. Phillip Bocks to see then-Spc. Kain Schilling take an enemy round to his left leg.
"I remember looking right at him and seeing the round go right through his leg," White recalled. He next rushed to his buddy, and for the second time that day applied a second tourniquet, using the only thing he had left, his belt.
"I thought for sure I wasn't going to make it through that day… absolutely not," he said. "Every task I was doing I wasn't really thinking about, it was 'we'll just see what happens."
The second indelible event was the moment before he lost consciousness for the second time in four hours to a 120mm friendly mortar round that fell short. He just remembers red-hot chunks of metal whizzing and screaming past his head, then lights out.
White was treated for post-traumatic stress while still on active duty, but feels as if he's moved past it.
"From when I was in, there were countless programs for those suffering with symptoms of PTSD," he said. "The programs are out there, but I think it's just those first steps in asking for help that a service member needs to take."
Like many Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors who have experienced the horror and trauma of combat, White said he feels far more comfortable going over the four-hour melee with his battle buddies and service members who have experienced war at its ugliest.