CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
For U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle White, the firefight began without warning.
White’s platoon left a meeting with village elders in Afghanistan after an interpreter heard suspicious chatter on an Army radio.
On the way back to their outpost, White’s platoon was ambushed. Over the next few hours, White put his own life at risk to save fellow service members during the Nov. 8, 2007, attack.
“I remember thinking multiple times that day I wasn’t going to make it,” said White, who will be awarded the Medal of Honor next month by President Obama.
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On Wednesday, the 27-year-old White, who now lives in Charlotte, was honored by the North Carolina military community. Gov. Pat McCrory, who was at the gathering, called White a “true American hero.”
In his first public discussion of the attack, White made a brief statement, then answered questions about the firefight that killed five members of his platoon and a Marine embedded with his unit.
He also discussed his life since leaving the Army in May 2011. The Bonney Lake native graduated from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, with a finance degree and works as an investment analyst at a bank in North Carolina’s largest city.
White said that after the ambush, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He urged veterans suffering from the illness to get help.
“The first thing that they need to do is reach out and get the help that they need. I know there’s a stigma around it. But these service members need to realize that they went to war and they made it back and that they might have some scars remaining,” White said.
“There’s no shame in going and seeking help. Reach out to your chain of command and they will help you,” he said.
And while the attack was 6½ years ago, the images are still fresh.
“Certain things you think about less and less. But at any given moment, I can close my eyes and be there … I can hear the sounds, smell the gunpowder in the air,” he said.
White and his team of 14 U.S. soldiers, along with Afghan National Army soldiers, were ambushed after meeting with village elders in Aranas, Afghanistan, according to an Army account of the attack.
White said he is humbled to be named a recipient of the Medal of Honor and that he would use it to tell the stories of the men who died that day.
“I will forever be a voice for them. I will tell their stories and preserve their memories. I say this because although they are gone, they will not be forgotten,” he said.