WASHINGTON >> President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to former Army Sergeant Kyle J. White, who put his own life at risk in an hours-long effort to save fellow service members during a 2007 ambush in Afghanistan.
White, a 27-year-old Seattle native, will be the seventh living recipient of the nation’s highest military honor for actions in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He will receive the medal in a ceremony at the White House on May 13.
White and his team of 14 U.S. soldiers, along with Afghan National Army soldiers, were ambushed during a meeting with village elders in Aranas, Afghanistan, according to an Army account of the attack. The Army said the U.S. soldiers had been wary of heading to the village because local residents were suspected of collusion that resulted in a major attack on an American outpost months earlier.
White told the Army that the turnout for the village meeting was unusually large, as were the number of questions being asked. In the midst of the meeting, the group’s interpreter started receiving radio traffic in a language he didn’t understand and the platoon leader was advised to leave the area.
Before White and his fellow soldiers could depart, they were attacked by gunfire from multiple directions. White was knocked unconscious and when he came to, he realized that most of his fellow American soldiers and all of the Afghans traveling with them were gone, having slid 150 feet down a rocky cliff for cover.
According to the Army account, the only men left up top were White, platoon leader 1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, Spc. Kain Schilling, Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks and the group’s interpreter. White set about trying to assess the condition of his fellow soldiers, running and crawling through gunfire as he made his way toward them.
Ferrara was already dead and Bocks was badly wounded. White repeatedly exposed himself to gunfire as he made attempts to pull Bocks into a covered area. Though he tried to stop Bocks’ bleeding, the Marine later died.
Suffering from concussions himself, White also treated Schilling’s injuries, even tying his own belt around his fellow soldier’s leg when he ran out of tourniquets.
Of the unit’s radios, only Bocks’ was still working after the attack. White used it to call for help, which didn’t arrive until after nightfall. When a helicopter did arrive, White only allowed himself to be evacuated after the wounded were assisted.
Schilling survived the attack and told the Army that he plans to attend White’s Medal of Honor ceremony next month.
White retired from the Army in 2011. He now works as an investment analyst at a bank in Charlotte, N.C.