WASHINGTON – 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.
After 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.
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.