President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Sergeant Kyle White on May 13, 2014.

  • By Duane Colt Denfeld, Ph.D.
  • Posted 6/03/2014
  • Essay 10794
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On May 13, 2014, President Barack Obama (b. 1961) awards the Medal of Honor to former Sergeant Kyle White (b. 1987) in a White House ceremony. Sergeant White receives the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions on November 9, 2007. He was a platoon radio-telephone operator with Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. Specialist White was a member of a 14-member team that left a meeting with village elders in Aranas, Afghanistan, when radio traffic indicated potential danger. The team headed back to its outpost and was soon ambushed. Over the next four hours Specialist White put his own life at risk to save others and bring help to the team trapped by Taliban forces.

Joining the Army

Kyle White grew up in Bonney Lake, Washington. His father was a Vietnam-era Army Special Forces veteran and then a Boeing employee.  Following high school graduation, on February 15, 2006, Kyle White joined the army.  

He received basic, advanced, and airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Specialist White's first tour of duty was to Vicenza, Italy, with the 503rd Infantry Regiment. White was deployed to Afghanistan in May 2007, and served as a platoon radio-telephone operator. 

Battle in Afghanistan

On November 8, 2007, soldiers of Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment left their outpost on foot for a meeting with village elders of Aranas, Afghanistan. They felt uncomfortable with the task since in the past the village may have colluded with the Taliban for an ambush. The team of 14 Americans and six Afghan National Army soldiers hiked to the village and spent the night in the American-constructed school there.

The next day the team expected a morning meeting, but it was delayed until that afternoon. When the team showed up for the Shura meeting, there was a larger crowd than expected. It was a hopeful sign that was soon replaced by concern over radio interceptions of heavy traffic in a language the team interpreter did not understand. The platoon leader directed the team to leave immediately. 

As they headed back to their outpost about 20 minutes from the village, the soldiers came under heavy enemy attack. Specialist White emptied his fully automatic weapon in the direction of known enemy positions. As he was reloading a magazine into his rifle, he was hit by fragments from a rocket-propelled grenade and knocked unconscious. He awoke to more fragments striking him in the face. The soldiers had taken cover where possible, but they were in exposed territory. Some of the team slid down a cliff, but remained under heavy fire.

White observed that Specialist Kain Schilling -- in the group that went down the cliff -- was shot in the arm, so he rushed to him and applied a tourniquet, which stopped the bleeding. White then saw that a Marine team member was badly wounded and dragged him to safety while under intense enemy fire. Despite Specialist White’s medical aid, the Marine, Sergeant Phillip A. Bocks (1979-2007), died.

White rushed to other wounded team members and discovered that the team leader had been killed. He found an operable radio and called in American firepower to pin down the enemy. One friendly round landed too close and caused White another concussion. As nightfall came, White through the interpreter, had the Afghan National Army establish a security perimeter. Also, he called in medical evacuation. When the medical evacuation arrived White assisted the medic in recovering the wounded, refusing evacuation until all were recovered. He had saved one life and aided the other wounded.

The battle lasted more than four hours and cost six American lives and three Afghans lives. Specialist White displayed exceptional bravery and exposed himself to deadly enemy fire. His take-charge attitude brought American firepower and held back an aggressive and combat-skilled Taliban force.

Specialist White spent several days in the Bagram Air Base hospital recovering from his wounds. He was able to return to the United States for the funeral of his best friend, Corporal Sean A. Langevin (1984-2007), who was killed in the ambush.   

A Hero and Model for Us All

Sergeant White left the army in July 2011 and went to North Carolina. He used the Post-9/11 GI Bill Educational Benefits to earn a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is employed as an investment analyst in Charlotte, North Carolina.

On May 13, 2014, former Sergeant White was awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony. President Barack Obama described White as a hero and model for us all. At the ceremony White spoke of his brothers in arms. He said that without the team there could be no Medal of Honor and that he wears the Medal of Honor for his team. He became the seventh living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq or Afghanistan War.

Sources: "Soldier with Area Roots to Get Medal of Honor,” The News Tribune, April 16, 2014, p. 1; "You Make Us Proud,’' Obama Tells Bonney Lake War Hero,” ibid, May 14, 2014, p. 1; "Medal of Honor, Words of Praise," The Seattle Times, May 14, 2014, p. 1.

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