So much of the current news cycle is dominated by gossip and innuendo, or substantive stories about events that I have discussed already. Looking at both sides of the ledger, a short list includes:
- The Nigerian Girls’ Kidnapping
- The mystery of Flight 370
- The Donald Sterling saga
- The Monica Lewinsky-Hillary Clinton-Karl Rove controversy, and of course,
- The Solange Knowles Jay Carter dustup
While I occasionally re-visit an issue, not today, and I’m passing on the anything I haven’t done from that list, as least for now..
Frequently I reference the proverbial notion of the “Exceptional American,” usually in jest, if not derision. Today’s subject, however, earned that sobriquet. Yesterday, President Obama awarded Sgt. Kyle J. White the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony. The former active-duty Army Sergeant received the medal for his courageous actions during combat in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.
I do not reject Exceptionalism on its face. The concept, used in context, is certainly a viable one. Political blowhards most often fail to provide proper context, or any reasonable facsimile.
President Obama described Sgt. White’s heroism and selflessness in explicit detail, as he said:
“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.”
That’s Exceptional, and worthy of the claim. Moreover, Sgt. White’s story did not end with that helicopter ride. With the help of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, he earned a degree from UNC-Charlotte and now works as an investment analyst at a RBC Capital Markets in Charlotte, NC.
The story of Kyle Jerome White is that of “An Exceptional American: The Genuine Article!” His bona fides are beyond dispute. I’m done; holla back!
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