Obama presents top medal to Afghanistan veteran Kyle J. White

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

16 PHOTOS
Kyle J. White Medal of Honor
See Gallery
Obama presents top medal to Afghanistan veteran Kyle J. White
President Obama signs the Medal of Honor award citation with Sergeant Kyle White & family in the Oval Office on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. White is a former Army sergeant who saved a fellow soldier's life and helped secure the evacuation of other wounded Americans while under persistent fire during a 2007 ambush in Afghanistan. White is the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
Former Army Spc. Kain Schilling, standing right, the soldier that former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White saved, and members of the second battalion, Chosen Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, stand at attention as they were recognized by President Barack Obama, and applauded by the invited guests during a ceremony awarding the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. White, a Seattle native now living in Charlotte, N.C., is the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
Former Spc. Kain Schilling attends the ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, where President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White. White is a former Army sergeant who saved Schilling's life and helped secure the evacuation of other wounded Americans while under persistent fire during a 2007 ambush in Afghanistan. White is the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. White is a former Army sergeant who saved a fellow soldier's life and helped secure the evacuation of other wounded Americans while under persistent fire during a 2007 ambush in Afghanistan. White is the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. White is a former Army sergeant who saved a fellow soldier's life and helped secure the evacuation of other wounded Americans while under persistent fire during a 2007 ambush in Afghanistan. White is the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. White is a former Army sergeant who saved a fellow soldier's life and helped secure the evacuation of other wounded Americans while under persistent fire during a 2007 ambush in Afghanistan. White is the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama applauds the newest Medal of Honor recipient, former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. White is a former Army sergeant who saved a fellow soldier's life and helped secure the evacuation of other wounded Americans while under persistent fire during a 2007 ambush in Afghanistan. White is the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama follows the newest Medal of Honor recipient, former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White, following a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. White is a former Army sergeant who saved a fellow soldier's life and helped secure the evacuation of other wounded Americans while under persistent fire during a 2007 ambush in Afghanistan. White is the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama applauds after awarding the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. White is a former Army sergeant who saved a fellow soldier's life and helped secure the evacuation of other wounded Americans while under persistent fire during a 2007 ambush in Afghanistan. White is the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) awards the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle J. White (L) during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. White was awarded the honor for conspicuous gallantry for his actions in combat in Afghanistan in 2007 where he saved another soldier's life and assisted in the evacuation of wounded comrades during an ambush. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) awards the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle J. White during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. White was awarded the honor for conspicuous gallantry for his actions in combat in Afghanistan in 2007 where he saved another soldier's life and assisted in the evacuation of wounded comrades during an ambush. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A member of the audience reads US Army Sergeant Kyle J. White's citation during a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama awarded the medal to former US Army Sergeant Kyle J. White for his actions in Aranas, Afghanistan in 2007. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama awards Sergeant Kyle J. White the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama awarded the medal to former US Army Sergeant Kyle J. White for his actions in Aranas, Afghanistan in 2007. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 13: U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle J. White walks out of the East Room after recieving the Medal of Honor from U.s. President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. White was awarded the honor for conspicuous gallantry for his actions in combat in Afghanistan in 2007 where he saved another soldiers life and assisted in the evacuation of wounded comrades during an ambush. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


WASHINGTON (AP) -- It could have been over for Kyle J. White just 30 seconds into the Taliban ambush, when a rocket-propelled grenade knocked him unconscious.

But he came to and by the time the four-hour firefight in Afghanistan was over, White, reeling from concussions and shrapnel in his face, had saved one comrade's life and helped secure the evacuation of other wounded Americans.

On Tuesday, White became only the seventh living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan, the latest reminder of the post-Sept. 11 conflicts and U.S. sacrifices President Barack Obama has sought to bring to an end

"We pay tribute to a soldier who embodies the courage of his generation," Obama said.

With the medal, White, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome after the ambush, also draws attention to the recent scrutiny confronting the Veteran's Affairs health care system and allegations of lapses in care and delays in mental health treatment.

Though Obama did not mention the VA controversies specifically, he told White: "You did your duty, and now it's time for America to do ours: after more than a decade of war, to welcome you home with the support and the benefits and opportunities that you've earned."

Following the ceremony, White, 27, said the valor belonged to all the members of his platoon that day.

"Battles are won by spirit," he said. "Without the team, there can be no Medal of Honor. That's why I wear this medal for my team."

An Army account of the attack says White, then a 20-year-old Army specialist, and his team of 14 U.S. troops, along with Afghan National Army soldiers, were ambushed Nov. 9, 2007, after attempting to hold a meeting with village elders in the village of Aranas in Nuristan province.

After regaining consciousness from the grenade hit, White found his platoon split by the ambush. Half the team had slid down the cliff for cover. He remained atop with three dead, dying and wounded comrades.

Left at the top with White were platoon leader 1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, Spc. Kain Schilling, Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, who was imbedded with the group, and its interpreter. White set about trying to assess the condition of his fellow soldiers, running and crawling through gunfire only to find Ferrara dead and Bocks badly wounded. Though he tried to stop Bocks' bleeding, the Marine later died.

Obama described the drama to an East Room audience of service members, family and White House staff:

"Across Afghanistan, base commanders were glued to the radios, listening as American forces fought back an ambush in the rugged mountains. One battalion commander remembered that all of Afghanistan was listening as a soldier on the ground described what was happening.

"They knew him by his call sign, Charlie-1-6-Romeo. We know it was Kyle, who at the time was just 20 years old and only 21 months into his military service."

Though suffering from concussions, White treated Schilling's injuries under the shadow of a lone tree and used one of the unit's radios to call for help. When a helicopter arrived after nightfall, White only allowed himself to be evacuated after the wounded were assisted.

Schilling attended White's Medal of Honor ceremony.

White retired from the Army in 2011 as a sergeant. He graduated from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte with a finance degree, and he now works as an investment analyst at a bank in Charlotte.

"Kyle will tell you that the transition to civilian life and dealing with the post-traumatic stress hasn't always been easy," Obama said. "More than six years later, he can still see the images and hear the sounds of that battle. Every day, he wakes up thinking about his battle buddies."

Later, White said he and Schilling wear identical bracelets.

"On it are the names of my six fallen brothers," he said. "They are my heroes."

Read Full Story

People are Reading