Monday, May 19, 2014

A Bracelet of Honor for His Friends
On Tuesday, President Obama bestowed the nation’s highest award for military valor – the Medal of Honor – on former Army Sgt. Kyle White. When you read this description from Stars and Stripes, keep in mind his age:

White received the nation’s highest award for military valor in recognition of his actions during a patrol in the steep, rugged mountains near Aranas in eastern Afghanistan. He was serving as a radiotelephone operator with C Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade when his team of U.S. and Afghan National Army troops were ambushed on Nov. 9, 2007 by a larger and more heavily armed Taliban force after a meeting with Afghan villagers.

Describing White as “a soldier who embodies the courage of his generation,” Obama recounted how, after being knocked unconscious by an enemy grenade, the young soldier, barely 20 at the time, regained consciousness as bullet fragments spattered his face. Despite his wounds, White repeatedly braved enemy fire to try to save his comrades, including former Spc. Kain Schilling, who was one of White’s guests at the ceremony. Twice during the battle, White used tourniquets, one of them his own belt, to prevent a severely wounded Schilling from bleeding to death.

“I’m here today because of Kyle’s actions. He not only saved my life, but the lives of many others,” Schilling told reporters on Monday.

White also used a radio to help direct air and mortar strikes against the Taliban to keep the enemy at bay.

“Base commanders were glued to their radios, listening as American forces fought back an ambush in the rugged mountains. One battalion commander remembered that ‘all of Afghanistan’ was listening as [White] described what was happening,” Obama said.

After medevac arrived, White made sure that all the other wounded servicemembers were onboard the helicopters before he left, according to Obama.

White, who has been upfront about his battle with PTSD, now has a successful career in investment banking. The war is long over for him.

But as important as the Medal of Honor is to him, there is another piece of metal that he wears every day. Kain Schilling made him a bracelet (and also one for himself) inscribed with the names of their six battle buddies who died that day: 1st Lt. Matthew Ferrara, Sgt. Jeffery Mersman, Spc. Sean Langevin, Spc. Lesgter Roque, Pfc, Joseph Lancour and Marine Sgt. Phillip Bocks.

It should come as no surprise to those of us who have watched these ceremonies that White talked about those men. The hardest thing about coming back, he admits, was finding a new mission. But he also said that whatever he accomplishes in his life, he hopes to make them proud.

To read the Stars and Stripes interview with Sgt. White, including a detailed accounting of what happened on Nov. 9, 2007, click here.

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