President Barack Obama on Tuesday awarded the nation's highest military honor to former Army Sergeant Kyle White for his actions during an ambush in Nuristan province, Afghanistan.
"You make us proud and you motivate all of us to be the best we can be as Americans, as a nation," said Obama during the White House ceremony, during which he praised White and his fellow soldiers for embodying the courage of their generation.
"Without the team, there can be no medal of honor," said White, who has said he refuses to see himself as a hero. "That is why I wear this medal for my team."
Described by those he served with as humble, Former Army Specialist Kain Schilling, badly wounded in the arm and leg, says if not for White, he would not be alive.
“He thinks it’s what anyone would do, but he went far beyond what most people would,” Schilling said.
The battle that made White a hero took place in Afghanistan's eastern Nuristan Province, near the village of Aranas.
On November 9, 2007, White was one of 14 Americans from Chosen Company navigating the rocky terrain. They were returning from a meeting with village elders when they came under attack.
Almost immediately, White and Schilling, along with Marine Sergeant Phillip Bocks, platoon leader 1st Lieutenant Matthew Ferrara and their interpreter were cut off from the rest of the group.
White went into action, returning fire, treating Schilling's gunshot wounds and despite having a concussion, trying to save the other two.
“I saw Kyle running back and forth and seeing the bullets hit the rocky shale stuff and the sparks that would pop up all-around him," said Schilling. "His uniform, his radio, his weapon, they all got hit."
He found a working radio, relaying critical information until help could arrive hours later.
These days, White wears a bracelet with the names of his fallen compatriots and tells people he only did what they would have done given the chance.
“There was no decision-making process. It was just my battle buddy out there and he needed help,” he said.
In all, six Americans died that day, a toll the Army says would have been worse if not for White's actions.
White, now 27 and an investment analyst in Charlotte, North Carolina, has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and has sought counseling for memories he cannot shake.
“Each time I close my eyes I can see those images, I see their faces as well,” he said.
Each day he just tries to make his fallen friends proud, grateful he got a second chance.