Former Army Sgt. Kyle White, Medal of Honor recipient for actions in Afghanistan, looks at his citation in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes during a May 14 ceremony at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (Mike Morones / Staff)
Former Sgt. Kyle White paid tribute to his fallen brothers Wednesday as he was inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, one day after receiving the Medal of Honor from President Obama.
“I do have nightmares about 9 November, though fewer and fewer as the days go on,” he said. “It was the worst day of my life. That day, those sounds, those smells changed my life, but at least I still have a life, a gift six of my brothers didn’t get.”
White received the nation’s highest award for valor for his actions on Nov. 9, 2007, during a deadly enemy ambush in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province.
Five soldiers and one Marine were killed that day.
White, then a specialist with 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, is credited with repeatedly running the gauntlet of enemy fire to get to the wounded and fallen. When the shooting stopped and night fell, White, who was barely 20 years old, cared for a wounded brother, called in steady radio reports, directed security and guided in close-air support until the medevac birds were able to come and evacuate the wounded and the dead.
In a speech that was at times funny and at times moving, White remembered the six men who fell that day.
“I’ve had nightmares before, but never have I had two at the same time, and I’m living two of them right now,” White, a self-described knuckle-headed boy from Seattle who wanted to jump out of airplanes, said when he took to the podium. “One is having the senior Army leadership watching everything I do, and the second is speaking in front of a large group of people.”
The six men who died on Nov. 9, 2007, were warriors, White said.
“They were the best of us,” he said. “I knew some better than others. My one regret is I didn’t take the opportunity to get to know the rest of them better.”
Sgt. Jeffrey Mersman had served four tours in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan.
White only met Marine Sgt. Phillip Bocks five days before the ambush.
“Though he knew he was dying, he never once gave an air of fear,” White said.
White used to hang out in the barracks room of Spc. Joseph Lancour, and Cpl. Lester Roque “was the most amazing medic.”
Capt. Matthew Ferrara was a “by-the-book” officer who would every once in a while “break protocol” to give his men a break, White said.
One of the platoon’s best days in Afghanistan was when Ferrara snuck a projector he had borrowed from the supply shop and hung up a sheet on a wall so the soldiers could have a “massive Xbox tournament,” White said.
Finally, White’s closest friend, Cpl. Sean Langevin, was so funny and mischievous, he said.
“I knew full well hanging around with him would land me in some trouble, but I didn’t care,” White said.
One day, during guard duty, the two got to talking about what would happen if they didn’t make it home.
“We both promised to take care of each other’s families if something happened,” White said. “It wasn’t too long after that, that my promise was tested.”
These young men, who were just boys when terrorists attacked American on Sept. 11, 2001, knowingly left their futures to defend the nation, White said.
“Though my name will hang in this Hall of Heroes, the names of these six men will hang in my heart and on my wrist forever,” he said. “They gave so others could live. What better honor could I pay them than to live each day to the fullest and be the best I can be? I hope that I can one day be worthy of their sacrifice.”