Monday, July 21, 2014

Hero of Afghanistan War, Army Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts awarded Medal of Honor

At a ceremony at the White House this afternoon, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts for his unwavering courage in one of the fiercest battles of the Afghanistan war.

In the summer of 2008, when our forces in Afghanistan were stretched thin across isolated outposts, Ryan was serving alongside 48 American soldiers charged with using little resources to defend a post with significant vulnerabilities. Mountains stood sky-high on every side of the village of Wanat, diverting aerial surveillance and delaying the heavy equipment they needed for their defense.

In the pre-dawn darkness of one fateful July morning, while manning this small, unfinished base, Ryan and his fellow soldiers were attacked by 200 assailants who were determined to take their post. “Those 200 insurgents were firing from ridges and from the village and from trees,” President Obama said. “Down at the base, a vehicle exploded—scattering its missiles, back at our soldiers. It was, said a soldier, ‘hell on earth.’”

Pounded by the relentless attack, every soldier was wounded almost instantaneously. Bleeding from the arm and both his legs, Ryan, at 22 years old, was the last man standing between the insurgents and his base. In his remarks, President Obama described how Ryan’s heroic acts helped not only prevent the fall of his post but save lives of his fellow soldiers:

As the insurgents moved in, Ryan picked up a grenade, pulled the pin, and held that live grenade—for a moment, then another, then another—finally hurling it so they couldn’t throw it back.  Then he did it again.  And again.  Unable to stand, Ryan pulled himself up on his knees and manned a machine gun.  Soldiers from the base below made a daring run—dodging bullets and explosions—and joined the defense.  But now the enemy was inside the post—so close they were throwing rocks at the Americans; so close they came right up to the sandbags.  Eight American soldiers had now fallen.  And Ryan Pitts was the only living soldier at that post.  

Soon, the enemy was so close Ryan could hear their voices. He whispered into the radio—he was the only one left and was running out of ammo.  “I was going to die,” he remembers, “and made my peace with it.”  The he prepared to make a last stand.  Bleeding, barely conscious, Ryan threw his last grenades.  He grabbed a grenade launcher and fired—nearly straight up, so the grenades came back down on the enemy just yards away.  One insurgent was now right on top of the post, shooting down—until another team of Americans showed up and drove him back.  As one of his teammates said, had it not been for Ryan Pitts, that post “almost certainly would have been overrun.”

But even with those reinforcements, the battle was not over.  Another wave of rocket-propelled grenades slammed into the post.  Nine American soldiers were now gone.  Still, the fighting raged.  Ryan worked the radio, helping target the air strikes that were hitting “danger-close”—just yards away.  And with those strikes the tide of the battle began to turn.  Eventually, the insurgents fell back.  Ryan and his fellow soldiers had held their ground.

Ryan’s steadfast bravery and selfless dedication to his brothers-in-arms exemplifies the quintessential strength of America’s servicemen and women. To Ryan, the Medal does not belong to him alone but serves as a tribute to all who fought with valor that day and as “a memorial for the guys who didn’t come home.” Today, the President honored the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all that day in Wanat:

The son who “absorbed love like a sponge”; the expectant father whose dream would later come true: a beautiful baby girl—Specialist Sergio Abad.

The boy who dominated the soccer field, fell in love with motorcycles, and there in that remote outpost took a direct hit in the helmet and kept on fighting—Corporal Jonathan Ayers.

The photographer whose pictures captured the spirit of the Afghan people, and who wrote to his family: “Afghanistan is exactly [where]…I wanted to be”—Corporal Jason Bogar.

The father who loved surfing with his son; the platoon leader who led a dash through the gunfire to that post to reinforce his men—1st Lieutenant Jonathan Brostrom.

An immigrant from Mexico who became a proud American soldier, on his third tour, whose final thoughts were of his family and his beloved wife Lesly—Sergeant Israel Garcia.

A young man of deep faith, who served God and country, who could always get a laugh with his impersonations of his commander—Corporal Jason Hovater.

The husband who couldn’t wait to become an uncle; the adventurous spirit who in every photo from Afghanistan had a big smile on his face—Corporal Matthew Phillips.

The big guy with an even bigger heart; the prankster whose best play was cleaning up at the poker table with his buddies and his dad—Corporal Pruitt Rainey.

And the youngest, just 20 years old, the “little brother” of the platoon, who loved to play guitar, and who, says his dad, did everything in life with passion—Corporal Gunnar Zwilling.

“Their legacy lives on in the hearts of all who love them still, especially their families,” the President said. “Mothers. Fathers. Wives. Brothers and sisters. Sons and daughters.” For Ryan, who is celebrating his two-year anniversary today with his wife Amy and his one-year-old son Lucas, that is the story he wants people to remember: “Soldiers who loved each other like brothers and who fought for each other; families who have made a sacrifice that our nation must never forget. ‘I think we owe it to them,’ he says, to ‘live lives worthy of their sacrifice.’”

The President reflected on the lessons we learned from Ryan and those who fought in the battle of Wanat:

When this nation sends our troops into harm’s way, they deserve a sound strategy and a well-defined mission.  They deserve the forces and support to get the job done.  That is what we owe soldiers like Ryan and all the comrades that were lost.  That is how we can truly honor all those who gave their lives that day.  That is how, as a nation, we can remain worthy of their sacrifice. I know that’s a view that’s shared by our Secretary of Defense, our Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all the leadership here. They’re hard lessons, but they’re ones that are deeply engrained in our hearts.

It is remarkable that we have young men and women serving in our military who, day in and day out, are able to perform with so much integrity, so much ability, so much courage. Ryan represents the very best of that tradition and we are very, very proud of him as we are of all of you.

So God bless you, Ryan.  God bless all who serve in our name.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

President Obama to Award the Medal of Honor

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 23, 2014

On July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Ryan M. Pitts, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  Staff Sergeant Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.

Staff Sergeant Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.  He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.


Staff Sergeant Pitts separated from the service on October 27, 2009 from Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  He currently lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, where he works in business development for the computer software industry.

Staff Sergeant Pitts enlisted in the Army in August 2003 as a Fire Support Specialist (13F), primarily responsible for the intelligence activities of the Army’s field artillery team.   After completion of training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and follow-on parachutist training at the U.S. Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to Camp Ederle, Vicenza, Italy, as a radio operator with the 4th Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment and 173rd Airborne Brigade where he deployed to Afghanistan.  His final assignment was with the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment "The Rock", 173rd Airborne Brigade as a Forward Observer which included a second combat tour to Afghanistan.

At the time of the July 13, 2008 combat engagement, then-Sergeant Pitts was a Forward Observer in 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade as part of Task Force Rock. His heroic actions were performed at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

His personal awards include the Bronze Star Medal w/ “V” Device, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal w/ three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Two Campaign Stars, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral “4”,  NATO Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Award, Combat Action Badge, Pathfinder Badge and Parachutist Badge.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Remarks by the President at Presentation of The Medal of Honor to Corporal William Kyle Carpenter

President  Obama presents Medal of Honor to Corporal  William Kyle Carpenter,
Thursday, June 19, 2014, at the White House

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
June 19, 2014

East Room
2:33 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody.  Please be seated.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.

The man you see before you today, Corporal William Kyle Carpenter, should not be alive today.  Hand grenades are one of the most awful weapons of war.  They only weigh about a pound, but they’re packed with TNT.  If one lands nearby, you have mere seconds to seek cover.  When it detonates, its fragments shoot out in every direction.  And even at a distance, that spray of shrapnel can inflict devastating injuries on the human body.  Up close, it’s almost certain death.

But we are here because this man, this United States Marine, faced down that terrible explosive power, that unforgiving force, with his own body -- willingly and deliberately -- to protect a fellow Marine.  When that grenade exploded, Kyle Carpenter’s body took the brunt of the blast.  His injuries were called “catastrophic.”  It seemed as if he was going to die.  While being treated, he went into cardiac arrest, and three times, he flatlined.  Three times, doctors brought him back.

Along with his parents, who call Kyle’s survival “our miracle,” we thank God they did.  Because with that singular act of courage, Kyle, you not only saved your brother in arms, you displayed a heroism in the blink of an eye that will inspire for generations valor worthy of our nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor.

Now, Kyle and I have actually met before.  During his long recovery at Walter Reed, he and some of our other wounded warriors came to the White House to celebrate the World Series champion, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Some of you might be aware, I am a White Sox fan.  (Laughter.)  Kyle likes the Braves.  So it was a tough day for both of us.  (Laughter.)

But after the ceremony, Michelle and I had the chance to meet Kyle.  And at the time, he was still undergoing surgeries.  But he was up and he was walking, and he was working his way toward being independent again, towards the man you see here today.  And, Kyle, the main message we want to send is, welcome back.  We are so proud to have you here.

We just spent some time not just with Kyle, but also with his wonderful family.  And anybody who has had a chance to get to know this young man knows you’re not going to get a better example of what you want in an American or a Marine.  Despite all the attention, he’s still the same humble guy from Gilbert, South Carolina, population of about 600 -- I guess today it’s only population 590-something.  (Laughter.)

These days he’s also at the University of South Carolina, “just a normal college student,” he says, cheering for the Gamecocks.  You’ll notice that Kyle doesn’t hide his scars; he’s proud of them, and the service that they represent.  And, now, he tells me this, and so I’m just quoting him -- he says, “the girls definitely like them.”  (Laughter.)  So he’s kind of -- he’s working an angle on this thing.  (Laughter.)  I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to say that in front of mom.  (Laughter.)  But there’s a quote there.

In addition to our many distinguished guests, I want to welcome those who made this man the Marine that he is -- Kyle’s father, Jim; Kyle’s lovely mom, Robin; and his brothers, Price, and Peyton, one of whom is going to be joining Kyle at South Carolina, another Gamecock, and then we’ve got one who’s going to be at The Citadel.  We also have Kyle’s Marine brothers who served with him in Afghanistan and through his recovery.  And I also want to welcome the members of the Medal of Honor Society, whose ranks Kyle joins today.

Kyle and his fellow Marines served during the surge of forces that I ordered to Afghanistan early in my presidency.  Their mission was to drive the Taliban out of their strongholds, protect the Afghan people and give them a chance to reclaim their communities.

Kyle and his platoon were in Helmand province in Marja, pushing their way across open fields and muddy canals, bearing their heavy packs even as it could heat up to 115 degrees.  In one small village, they turned a dusty compound into their base.  The insurgents nearby gave their answer with sniper fire, and automatic weapon fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.

That morning, Kyle said, “our alarm clock was AK-47 fire.”  Some of the men were by their bunks, gearing up for another day.  Some were heating up their MREs.  Some were in makeshift ops centers -- a simple mud building -- planning the day’s patrols.  And up on the roof, behind a circle of sandbags, two Marines manned their posts -- Kyle, and Lance Corporal Nicholas Eufrazio.
The compound started to take fire.  Seeking cover, Kyle and Nick laid down low on their backs behind those sandbags.  And then the grenade landed with a thud, its pin already pulled.  It was about to explode.

And Kyle has no memory of what happened next.  What we do know is that there on that rooftop he wasn’t just with a fellow Marine, he was with his best friend.  Kyle and Nick had met in training.  In Afghanistan they patrolled together, day and night, a friendship forged in fire.  Kyle says about Nick, “He was my point man, and I loved him like a brother.”

When the grenade landed, other Marines in the compound looked up and saw it happen.  Kyle tried to stand.  He lunged forward toward that grenade, and then he disappeared into the blast.   Keep in mind, at the time, Kyle was just 21 years old.  But in that instant, he fulfilled those words of Scripture:  “Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

They found Kyle lying face down, directly over the blast area.  His helmet was riddled with holes.  His gear was melted.  Part of his Kevlar vest was blown away.  One of the doctors who treated him later said Kyle was “literally wounded from the top of his head to his feet.”

And for a moment, Kyle was still conscious.  His eyes were open but he couldn’t see.  Kyle remember “everything went white.”  And yet, even then, his thoughts were not of himself.  One of the Marines who was there remembers how Kyle kept asking one question, and that was whether Nick was okay.  And then, as Kyle’s strength drained away, he sensed the end was coming.  So according to Kyle’s memories, “My last thought [was to] make peace with God.  I asked for forgiveness.  I was trying to make the best and most of my last few seconds here on Earth.”

The Medal of Honor is presented for gallantry on the battlefield.  But today, we also recognize Kyle Carpenter for his valor since in the hard fight for recovery.  Eventually, Kyle woke up after five weeks in a coma.  I want you to consider what Kyle has endured just to stand here today -- more than two and a half years in the hospital.  Grueling rehabilitation.  Brain surgery to remove shrapnel from his head.  Nearly 40 surgeries to repair a collapsed lung, fractured fingers, a shattered right arm broken in more than 30 places, multiple skin grafts.  He has a new prosthetic eye, a new jaw, new teeth -- and one hell of a smile.  (Laughter.)

And Kyle is the first to give credit elsewhere.  His doctors at Bethesda, he says, “put me back together well.”  Today is also a reminder that in past wars, somebody with injuries as severe as Kyle’s probably wouldn’t have survived.  So many of our wounded warriors from today’s wars are alive not just because of remarkable advances in technology, but primarily because of the extraordinary dedication and skill of our military and our VA medical professionals.

So we need to keep doing everything we can in our power to give our wounded warriors and those who treat them the support that they need.  And I think this is a wonderful opportunity to ask doctors Debra Malone and Lauren Greer, and the rest of Kyle’s medical team who are here to please stand.  I see their amazing work every time I visit Bethesda, every time I visited Walter Reed.  It’s pretty rare where you’ve got a job where you just know you’re doing God’s work every single day.  And they do an incredible job, so thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you for the miracles you work for our wounded troops and veterans.

Now, Kyle says he’ll wear this medal for all who serve and for those who didn’t make it back, and for those who struggle still.  So today, we also honor two members of his team who made the ultimate sacrifice in that deployment:  Kyle’s friends Lance Corporal Timothy M. Jackson of Corbin, Kentucky, and Lance Corporal Dakota R. Huse of Greenwood, Louisiana.

And our thoughts are also with the Marine who Kyle saved that day, his brother, Nick.  I had the opportunity to meet Nick as well nearly two years after the blast on one of my visits to Walter Reed.  Nick also suffered grievous wounds.  As a result of traumatic brain injury, he couldn’t speak for more than a year.  He also endured multiple surgeries.  Today, his recovery continues.  He lives at home with his family in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where he is watching this ceremony.  So, Nick, on behalf of all of us, I want you to know we honor your sacrifice as well.  Your perseverance is an inspiration.  And just as Kyle was there for you, our nation will be there for you and your family as you grow stronger in the years ahead.

If any of our wounded warriors seek an example -- let me amend that -- if any American seeks a model of the strength and resilience that define us as a people, including this newest 9/11 generation, I want you to consider Kyle.  After everything he’s been through, he skis, he snowboards, he’s jumped from a plane -- with a parachute, thankfully.  (Laughter.)  He trudged through a 6-mile Mud Run, completed the Marine Corps Marathon, says he wants to do a triathlon.  He’s a motivational speaker, an advocate for his fellow wounded warriors.  He’s thinking about majoring in psychology so he can use his own experiences to help others.  He got stellar grades.  And, by the way, he’s only 24 years old, and says, “I am just getting started.”

In other words, Kyle is a shining example of what our nation needs to encourage -- these veterans who come home and then use their incredible skills and talents to keep our country strong.  And we can all learn from Kyle’s example.

As we prepare for the reading of the citation, I’d like to close with his own words -- a message, I think, for every American. “It took a life-changing event to get me to truly appreciate the precious and amazing life I have been blessed with.  Please take it from me, enjoy every day to the fullest, don't take life too seriously, always try to make it count, appreciate the small and simple things, be kind and help others, let the ones you love always know you love them, and when things get hard trust there is a bigger plan and that you will be stronger for it.”  Pretty good message.

Corporal William Kyle Carpenter should not be alive today, but the fact that he is gives us reason to trust that there is indeed a bigger plan.  So God bless you, Kyle.  God bless all who serve and protect the precious and amazing life that we are blessed with.  May God continue to bless and keep strong the United States of America.  Semper Fi.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States, in the name of the Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter, United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an automatic rifleman with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team One, 1st Marine Division (Forward), 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on 21 November, 2010.

Lance Corporal Carpenter was a member of a platoon-sized coalition force comprised of two reinforced Marine rifle squads, partnered with an Afghan National Army squad.  The platoon had established Patrol Base Dakota two days earlier in a small village in the Marja District in order to disrupt enemy activity and provide security for the local Afghan population.

Lance Corporal Carpenter and a fellow Marine were manning a rooftop security position on the perimeter of Patrol Base Dakota when the enemy initiated a daylight attack with hand grenades, one of which landed inside their sandbagged position.  Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Lance Corporal Carpenter moved towards the grenade in an attempt to shield his fellow Marine from the deadly blast.  When the grenade detonated, his body absorbed the brunt of the blast, severely wounding him but saving the life of his fellow Marine.

By his undaunted courage, bold fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of almost certain death, Lance Corporal Carpenter reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

(The Medal of Honor is presented.)

(Prayer is offered.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that brings us to the conclusion of this ceremony, but not the reception and party.  And so I want to thank everybody again for being here, especially Kyle’s wonderful family and his parents.  And I understand that the food here at the White House is pretty good -- (laughter) -- so I already told Kyle’s brothers that they should be chowing down.  But that goes for everybody else as well -- and I think the drinks are free.  I don’t know what -- although it’s still early in the afternoon.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

President Obama to Award Medal of Honor, June 19, 2014

The White House 
Office of the Press Secretary

On June 19, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Corporal William "Kyle" Carpenter, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret), the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  Corporal Carpenter will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as an Automatic Rifleman with Company F, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Corporal Carpenter will be the eighth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.  He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.


Corporal William "Kyle" Carpenter, was born in Flowood, Mississippi on October 17, 1989, and graduated from W. Wyman King Academy, Batesburg, South Carolina, in 2008.  In February 2009, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at Recruiting Station Columbia, South Carolina, and completed his basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, later that year.

At the time of the November 21, 2010 combat engagement in Afghanistan in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM, then-Lance Corporal Carpenter served as an Automatic Rifleman with Company F, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team-1, 1st Marine Division (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

In July 2013, he was medically retired as a Corporal due to his wounds.  He is currently a full time student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

His personal awards include a Purple Heart Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon.  Additional awards and decorations include the Navy Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one bronze star, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal ISAF for Afghanistan, and Rifle Sharpshooter Badge.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Transcript: President Obama at presentation of Medal of Honor to Sergeant Kyle J. White, U.S. Army

2:44 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please, be seated.  Welcome to the White House.  It has been said that true courage is “a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to incur it.”  For more than 12 years, with our nation at war, the men and women of our armed forces have known the measure of danger that comes with military service.  But year after year, tour after tour, they have displayed a selfless willingness to incur it -- by stepping forward, by volunteering, by serving and sacrificing greatly to keep us all safe.

Today, our troops are coming home.  By the end of this year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.  And we’ll welcome home this generation -- the 9/11 Generation -- that has proven itself to be one of America’s greatest.

And today, we pay tribute to a soldier who embodies the courage of his generation -- a young man who was a freshman in high school when the Twin Towers fell, and who just five years later became an elite paratrooper with the legendary 173rd Airborne -- the Sky Soldiers.  Today, we present our nation’s highest military decoration -- the Medal of Honor -- to Sergeant Kyle J. White. 

Kyle is the second Sky Soldier to be recognized with the Medal of Honor for service above and beyond the call of duty in Afghanistan.  Today, he joins Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, and a proud brotherhood of previous honorees, members of the Medal of Honor Society -- some of whom are with us here today.

We have a lot of VIPs here, but I’d like to acknowledge the most important -- Kyle’s parents, Cheryl and Curt, and Kyle’s girlfriend, Helen.  I am told that back home in Bonney Lake, Washington when Kyle wanted to enlist, at first he had his sights set on the Marines.  But his dad Curt is a veteran of the Army, Special Forces.  So I’m told there was a difference of opinion.  (Laughter.)  And, I suspect, a good family discussion.  As Commander-in-Chief, I cannot take sides in this debate.  (Laughter.)  The bottom line is Kyle joined the Army.  And in doing so he carried on his family’s proud tradition of service, which found its expression on a November day over six years ago.

Across Afghanistan, 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 a soldier on the ground described what was happening.  They knew him by his call sign -- “Charlie One Six Romeo.”  We know it was Kyle, who at the time was just 20 years old and only 21 months into his military service.   

Earlier that afternoon, Kyle and the 13 members of his team, along with a squad of Afghan soldiers, left an Afghan village after a meeting with elders.  The Americans made their way back up a steep hill -- single file, along a narrow path, a cliff face rising to their right, and a slope of rocky shale dropping on their left.  They knew not to stop, that they had to keep moving.  They were headed into an area known as “ambush alley”.  

And that’s when a single shot rang out.  Then another.  And then the entire canyon erupted, with bullets coming from what seemed like every direction.  It was as if, Kyle said, the whole valley “lit up.” 

The platoon returned fire.  Kyle quickly emptied a full magazine, but as he went to load a second, an enemy grenade exploded and knocked him unconscious.  He came to with his face pressed against a rock.  And as he moved to get up, enemy rounds hit a rock just inches from his head, sending shrapnel and rock shards across his face.   

Most of the unit had been forced to slide down the cliff to the valley below.  But Kyle saw a teammate -- Specialist Kain Schilling -- trying to treat his own shattered arm, using a tree as cover -- what Kain later called “the smallest tree on Earth.”  I’m sure that’s how it felt.  Kyle sprinted through enemy fire to Kain’s side and began applying a tourniquet -- shielding Kain with his own body as gunfire shredded that tree. 

Then Kyle saw another man down -- Marine Sergeant Phillip Bocks -- in the open, 30 feet behind them, but too injured to reach cover.  Kyle remembers thinking, “It’s just a matter of time before I’m dead.  If that’s going to happen, I might as well help someone while I can.”

With bullets impacting all around him, Kyle ran to Bocks and began to pull the injured Marine to cover.  But worried that he’d expose Bocks to more gunfire, Kyle retreated.  The enemy rounds followed him.  He ran out again, pulling Bocks a little farther.  And once more he retreated to distract the enemy fire.  Once more he went out -- over and over thinking to himself, “I’m not going to make it.”  Kyle could feel the pressure of the rounds going by him.  But somehow, miraculously, they never hit him.  Not once.  One of his teammates said it was as if Kyle was moving “faster than a speeding bullet”.

And finally, Kyle succeeded in pulling his comrade to cover.  Tragically, there on that cliff, Sergeant Bocks succumbed to his wounds.  But in his final moments, this American Marine surely found some solace in Kyle White -- the American soldier who, until the very end, was there by his side.   

Now, that other injured soldier, Kain Shilling, was still out there.  And he had sustained another injury, this time to his knee.  Kyle ran out once more to Kain’s side.  Kyle ripped off his own belt for a tourniquet, and soon got his hands on a working radio.  The voice of Charlie One Six Romeo came into base.  Crouching behind that lone tree, Kyle began calling in airstrikes to take out enemy positions.

Kyle stayed with Specialist Schilling as night fell.  And Kain was too badly injured to move.  Kyle was starting to feel the fog of his own concussions set in, but he knew that he was Kain’s best chance to get out alive, so Kyle took charge and ordered the Afghan soldiers to form a security perimeter.  He called in a MEDEVAC and made sure Kain and the other injured were safely on board.  And only then did Kyle finally allow himself to be lifted out.

As the helicopter pulled away, Kyle looked out the window, watching the darkness as they pulled away from that single tree on the cliff.  “When you’re deployed,” he later said, “those people become your family.  What you really care about is:  I want to get this guy to the left and to the right home.”

This family was tested that day.  Not a single one of them escaped without injury, and six brave Americans gave their lives -- their last full measure of devotion.  And we remember them today.  Sergeant Phillip A. Bocks.  Captain Matthew C. Ferrara.  Specialist Joseph M. Lancour.  Sergeant Jeffery S. Mersman.  Corporal Lester G. Roque.  And Kyle’s best friend, Corporal Sean K. A. Langevin.  Some of their families are here today.  I’d ask them to please stand so we can recognize their extraordinary sacrifice.  (Applause.)

The legacy of these fallen heroes endures in the courage and strength of their unit -- 14 men, forever brothers-in-arms.  We’re proud to welcome those who fought so valiantly that day:  Specialist Kain Schilling, the soldier that Kyle saved, and members of the 2nd Battalion, Chosen Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.  Would you please stand.  (Applause.) 

We honor Kyle White for his extraordinary actions on that November day.  But his journey from that day to this speaks to the story of his generation.  Kyle completed the rest of a 15-month deployment in Afghanistan.  He came back home and trained other young paratroopers as they prepared to deploy.  When he completed his service, Kyle decided to pursue a different dream, and with the help of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, he went to college, he graduated, and today works for a bank in Charlotte, North Carolina.

When Kyle walks into the office every day, people see a man in a suit headed to work.  And that’s how it should be -- a proud veteran welcomed into his community, contributing his talents and skills to the progress of our nation.  But Kyle will tell you that the transition to civilian life -- and dealing with the post-traumatic stress -- hasn’t always been easy.  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.

And if you look closely at that man in the suit on his way to work, you’ll notice the piece of the war that he carries with him tucked under his shirt sleeve -- a stainless steel bracelet around his wrist etched with the names of his six fallen comrades who will always be with him.  “Their sacrifice motivates me,” he says, to “be the best [that] I can be.  Everything I do in my life is done to make them proud.” 

Kyle, members of Chosen Company, 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.  You make us proud, and you motivate all of us to be the best we can be as Americans, as a nation; to uphold our sacred obligations to your generation and all who have faced that “measure of danger” and “the willingness to incur it.”   

May God bless you, and may your courage inspire and sustain us always.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America. 

With that, I’d like to have the citation read.

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Specialist Kyle J. White, United States Army.

Specialist Kyle J. White distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a radio telephone operator with Company C, 2nd Battalion Airborne, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade during combat operations against an armed enemy in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on November 9, 2007. 

On that day, Specialist White and his comrades were returning to Bella Outpost from a shura with Aranas village elders.  As the soldiers traversed a narrow path surrounded by mountainous, rocky terrain, they were ambushed by enemy forces from elevated positions.  Pinned against a steep mountain face, Specialist White and his fellow soldiers were completely exposed to enemy fire.  Specialist White returned fire and was briefly knocked unconscious when a rocket-propelled grenade impacted near him. 

When he regained consciousness, another round impacted near him, embedding small pieces of shrapnel in his face.  Shaking off his wounds, Specialist White noticed one of his comrades lying wounded nearby.  Without hesitation, Specialist White exposed himself to enemy fire in order to reach the soldier and provide medical aid. 

After applying a tourniquet, Specialist White moved to an injured Marine, providing aid and comfort until the Marine succumbed to his wounds.  Specialist White then returned to the soldier and discovered that he had been wounded again.  Applying his own belt as an additional tourniquet, Specialist White was able to stem the flow of blood and save the soldier’s life.

Noticing that his and the other soldiers’ radios were inoperative, Specialist White exposed himself to enemy fire yet again in order to secure a radio from a deceased comrade.  He then provided information and updates to friendly forces, allowing precision airstrikes to stifle the enemy’s attack and ultimately permitting medical evacuation aircraft to rescue him, his fellow soldiers, Marines, and Afghan army soldiers.

Specialist Kyle J. White.  Extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 2nd Battalion Airborne, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the United States Army.  (Applause.)


THE PRESIDENT:  That concludes the ceremony, but not the celebration.  I hear the food here is pretty good.  (Laughter.)  And the drinks are free.  (Laughter.)  Who gave a big shout on that?  I heard somebody.  (Laughter.)  But I hope all of you enjoy the hospitality of the White House.  I hope we all remember once again those who are fallen.  We are grateful to the families who are here.  And to Kyle and all who serve in America’s Armed Forces, we want you to know that we will always be grateful for your extraordinary service to our country.

Thank you very much, everybody.  Have a great afternoon.  (Applause.)  

3:04 P.M. EDT

Watch LIVE: President Obama awards former Army Sergeant Kyle White the Medal of Honor

President Obama awards former Army Sergeant Kyle White with the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Platoon Radio Telephone Operator during combat operations in Afghanistan on November 9, 2007.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

President Obama will award Former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White the Medal of Honor on May 13, 2014

On May 13, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Kyle J. White, a former active duty Army Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  Sergeant White will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Platoon Radio Telephone Operator assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on November 9, 2007.

Members of 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, pause for a photo in at Forward Operating Base Blessing, Afghanistan, May 2008. Photo courtesy of Kyle White

Sergeant White will be the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.  He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.


Former Sergeant Kyle J. White separated from the Army on July 8, 2011.  He currently lives in Charlotte, NC, where he works as an Investment Analyst.

Sergeant White enlisted in the Army in February 2006 as an Infantryman.   After completion of training at Ft Benning, he was assigned to Vicenza, Italy, with 2nd Battalion (Airborne) 503rd Infantry "The Rock" as a grenadier and rifleman which included a combat tour to Afghanistan from May 2007 until August 2008.  Following Italy, Kyle was assigned as an opposing forces Sergeant with the Ranger Training Battalion at Ft Benning.

Sergeant White deployed in support of the War on Terror with one tour to Afghanistan.

At the time of the November 9, 2007 combat engagement, then-Specialist White was a Platoon Radio Telephone Operator assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.  His heroic actions were performed during a dismounted movement in mountainous terrain in Aranas, Afghanistan.

White’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster and “V” device, the Army Achievement Medal with one  oak leaf cluster, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one campaign star, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon  with numeral “2” device, the NATO Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Parachutists Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the Valorous Unit Award.

Learn more about Sergeant Kyle J. White: Operation Enduring Freedom


On Nov. 8, 2007, Soldiers of 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173 Airborne Brigade, left Combat Outpost Bella by foot to visit the large village of Aranas, Afghanistan, for a Shura meeting with village elders. The American Soldiers weren't thrilled about the mission because the villagers had been suspected of collusion which resulted in a major attack months earlier on COP Ranch House which resulted in 11 wounded and the closure of the outpost.

Under cover of a pitch-black sky, the team made for the American-built schoolhouse on the edge of the village where they would bunk for the night.

At daybreak, Nov. 9, the group prepared for the late morning meeting at the mosque, but villagers delayed the get-together, saying the elders were praying for several hours. The meeting was put off until early afternoon, about 1:30 p.m.

White recalled that village turnout for the Shura was unusually large as were the number of questions being asked. The Soldiers were hopeful about the level of interest from the young village males of fighting age. Then the 20-year old White said the interpreter was receiving radio traffic in a language he didn't understand. The lone Marine and embedded training team member Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks then advised platoon leader 1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, it was best leave the area.

"There was one shot, you know, down into the valley, and then it was two shots, and then it was full-automatic fire and RPGs ... it was coming from multiple directions," White remembered. Carrying a fully-automatic M4A1, White emptied his 30-round magazine, then loaded another, but he didn't get a chance to fire.

"An RPG 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," he said, recalling that as he was awakening, an enemy round fragmented near his head sending 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."

More shots, more booms, more chaos ... then White realized 10 of the 14-man American element and the ANA soldiers were gone. With no cover, the remainder of the patrol had been forced to slide more than 150 feet down the side of a rocky cliff.

The only ones remaining up top were Spc. Kain Schilling, Ferrara, Bocks, the interpreter and White. Then White looked around and saw Schilling had been shot in the upper right arm and was dodging and weaving and running toward the cover of shrubs and the umbrella canopy of a single prickly tree. White made for the tree which provided just enough shade to make the two Soldiers nearly invisible.

White pulled out a tourniquet and asked Schilling, who was grimacing with pain, if he could apply it. White could see where the bullet entered and the blood was flowing from, so he slipped the tourniquet on and instead of cranking down too hard, White said he tightened it just enough to stop the bleeding.

"As I was working on him, I had the radio on, then I rolled over and sat next to Schilling just to take my pack off, that's when I got that metallic taste, then that burning in my lungs," White said, adding that he and Kain covered their mouths with their shirts to filter whatever it was.

"Initially, I thought we were the first unlucky bastards to have chemical weapons on us ... that's what we thought initially, but then I saw a stream of smoke over my shoulder and I realized my pack was smoldering -- it was the battery from my radio burning up," he said.

White checked his radio, then grabbed Schilling's radio, but both were out of the fight. Then White saw Bocks, who was badly wounded, lying out in the open, about 30 feet from the shade of the tree. He began encouraging the Marine to use all the strength he could, but Bocks couldn't make any progress.

"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, shit, we're not gonna make it through this one; it's just a matter of time before I'm dead," White said. "I figured, if that's going to happen, I might as well help someone while I can."

White sprinted the 30 feet to Bocks as rounds skipped around his feet and snapped past his head, but he made it to Bocks unscathed, but remembered thinking, his wounds were severe. He looked over at Schilling and yelled at the interpreter to attend to the Soldier, but the interpreter was pinned down and couldn't move.

"At that time, I can remember thinking he wasn't going to make it, but I knew I wasn't going to stop trying," White said. "No matter what the outcome, I'm going to do what I can with what I have."

White grabbed the buddy carry handle on the back of Bocks' vest and began pulling the 200-pound plus Marine toward cover. He realized that the enemy was now shooting directly at him and further endangering Bocks, so he ran back to cover, waited until fire died down, then ran out again repeating the process four times until Bocks was under cover.

White saw that Bocks' leg was bleeding badly, so he grabbed another tourniquet out of his pack, slipped it around Bocks' leg and tightened down until the bleeding stopped. Next he tore Bocks' shirt open, saw another wound, but it wasn't until he rolled him over that he saw the large exit wound. "Stop the bleeding" is all he thought as he stuffed bandages, clothing, whatever he could to stop the bleeding. No matter what White did, the bleeding wasn't stopping and the Marine succumbed to his wounds.

No sooner had White realized Bocks had passed than he looked over to see Schilling get hit again by small-arms fire, this time in the left leg. White scrambled to Schilling. Out of tourniquets, White pulled his belt from his ACUs and looped it around Schilling's leg.

"Hey man, this is going to hurt," he said to Schilling who replied, "'Just do it,' so I put my foot on his leg and pulled the belt as hard as I could until the bleeding stopped."

White next looked around for the lieutenant and noticed his platoon leader, Ferrara, was lying still, face-down on the trail. Again, White exposed himself to fire, this time crawling to Ferrara's position. The lieutenant was dead, so White moved back to Schilling where he began to use Schilling's radio until an enemy round zipped right through the hand-mic blowing it out of his hand. Now both Soldiers' radios had been destroyed.

The paratrooper moved to Bocks and found that his radio was still operational, so he established communication with friendly elements and rendered a situation report. He understood the situation well enough that he was able to bring in mortars, artillery, air strikes and helicopter gun runs to keep the enemy from massing on friendly positions.

"I heard a hiss, just a second of a hiss and then a big, big explosion and that one brought me to my knees," he said. "It scrambled my brains a little bit."

That was concussion No. 2 for the day, caused by a friendly 120-mm mortar round that fell a little short of its target.

After nightfall, White began giving the interpreter commands to relay to the ANA to establish themselves as a security perimeter. Medevac was still a few hours away, so White kept telling Schilling to stay awake as he consolidated sensitive items -- radios and weapons in a central location to ensure no equipment would be lost to the enemy.

While trying to keep Schilling from falling asleep, White battled his own multiple concussions. He knew if he passed out, the helicopters wouldn't be able to find them or the two wounded ANA soldiers who White had also treated.

Eventually, White marked the landing zone and assisted the flight medic in hoisting the wounded into the helicopter. Only after all wounded were off the trail did White allow himself to be evacuated.

While many ANA and fellow Soldiers were injured on that autumn day nearly seven years ago, five American Soldiers and one Marine died during the battle which White and Schilling say they have never forgotten and never will.

Each of the surviving Soldiers of the Battle of Aranas wears a stainless steel wristband with the names of those who didn't come home: 1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, Sgt. Jeffery S. Mersman, Spc. Sean K.A. Langevin, Spc. Lester G. Roque, Pfc. Joseph M. Lancour and Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks.


The only child of a Vietnam era Special Forces Soldier and his wife, White first wanted to join the Marine Corps in 2006. His father convinced his 19-year-old son -- who grew up hunting, fishing and snowboarding -- to go Army and to be a paratrooper. In February 2006, he signed on as an infantryman.

Following airborne training at Fort Benning, Ga., White was assigned to Vincenza, Italy, with 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry as a grenadier and rifleman. While with the 503rd, White was deployed to Afghanistan as a platoon radio telephone operator from May 2007 until August 2008. He next served as an opposing forces sergeant with the Ranger Training Battalion at Fort Benning.

He separated from the Army on July 8, 2011, and used his G.I. Bill to attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte from which he received a bachelor's degree. Today, he works as an investment analyst at The Royal Bank of Canada in Charlotte.

Former Spc. Kain D. Schilling who was shot twice, credits White with saving his life. He said before White patched him up with two tourniquets, he didn't think he had a chance of getting out of the ambush.

Today, he's well and serves as an armed security officer in Palo, Iowa. Like White, he was also just 20 at the time of the battle. While White and Schilling were friends before the battle, they've become even closer friends who experienced a major trauma and the horror of war.

"Kyle still comes up once a year because he knows I have a family and it's hard for me to break away, so he comes to me ... that's really cool," Schilling said, adding that he'll be at the ceremony. "I consider him my best friend. We're still very close after these seven years."

Schilling said that while White didn't actually get hit by any enemy rounds, his pack was shot up and his weapon was also shot more than a few 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, how he went to get Bocks so many times -- faster than a speeding bullet -- he's definitely lucky and so am I."