A former Army sergeant will be awarded the Medal of Honour today for his heroics during a hellish 2007 battle in Afghanistan.
Former Sgt. Kyle J. White, who was just 20 years old during the firefight on Nov. 8, 2007, repeatedly ran through intense enemy gunfire to get to wounded troops, called in steady reports and air support to beat back Taliban fighters, and directed medical evacuations for the dead and wounded, Army Times reports.
“An RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] hit right behind my head and knocked me unconscious … it was just lights out … when I woke up, I was face-down on a rock,” White told Army News Service, recalling that as he came to, an enemy round fragmented near his head and sent a shower of broken rock chips and debris into the side of his face. “I didn’t feel pain at all, just numb like when you go to the dentist.”
With chaos all around him, White realised that 10 of those with his 14-man team embedded with Afghan soldiers had been forced to slide more than 150 feet down the side of a rocky cliff. As one of four soldiers left above (and closest to enemy fire), White tended to a wounded soldier for some time before seeing a Marine on the team lying wounded out in the open.
“I knew he needed help and there was a lot of fire coming in, but it really didn’t matter at that point, but by then I already had known, well, sh–, we’re not gonna make it through this one; it’s just a matter of time before I’m dead,” White told Army News Service. “I figured, if that’s going to happen, I might as well help someone while I can.”
Despite heavy fire, he ran and made it, grabbing wounded Marine Sgt. Philip Bocks and eventually pulling him to safety.
Unfortunately, Bocks’ wounds were too severe. “I worked on him until he was no longer with us,” White told Army Times.
As night fell, White — now suffering from two concussions — directed Afghan Army soldiers to set up a defensive perimeter as he kept a badly-wounded Spec. Kain Schilling from falling asleep and marked a landing zone so helicopters could land and bring the soldiers out.
The battle resulted in terrible losses, with many Afghan and U.S. soldiers injured, and five soldiers and one Marine killed.
White was briefly sent to Bagram Air Base for treatment, attended the funeral of his best friend Cpl. Sean Langevin, then returned to the fight.
“He recovered and rejoined his brothers in an extended fight, completing a 15-month tour,” Col. Bill Ostlund, White’s former battalion commander, told Army Times. “He was a trained, humble and selfless paratrooper and warrior that did not seek recognition or prod the system for recognition.”
For all his heroics, White was not hit by enemy fire, although his pack, weapon, and radio equipment was hit multiple times.
“I just want people to know, the fire he moved through was just absolutely … I can’t even describe how intense it was, that’s what amazed me,” Schilling recalled to Army News Service. “How he went to get Bocks so many times — faster than a speeding bullet — he’s definitely lucky and so am I.”
White will be the 14th recipient of the Medal of Honour for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Here’s White discussing his experience that day:
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