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May 15, 2014

Obama awards Medal of Honor to Afghan war soldier who stood by his team under ambush

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President Obama recently awarded former Army Sergeant Kyle White the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest honor for valor, for his role in a 2007 battle in Afghanistan.

In a ceremony in the White House East Room, the president recounted White’s gallantry after his platoon was ambushed in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province.

After leaving a meeting with Afghan village elders, White and the 13 members of his team were walking along a narrow path on a steep hill when they were bombarded with gunfire.

White was knocked unconscious by a grenade, and when he became conscious again, “Most of the unit had been forced to slide down the cliff to the valley below. But [White] saw a teammate — Specialist Kain Schilling — trying to treat his own shattered arm, using a tree as cover,” said President Obama. “[White] sprinted through enemy fire to Kain’s side and began applying a tourniquet — shielding Kain with his own body as gunfire shredded that tree.”

White also ducked bullets to get to his platoon leader, 1st Lieutenant Matthew Ferrara, and Marine Sergeant Phillip Bocks. Both men ultimately died of their wounds. And even after the shooting stopped, White kept going.

After the ceremony, White spoke outside the White House, saying, “Battles are not won by men. If that were true, the Taliban would have won on that trail in Afghanistan because they had every tactical advantage, including the numbers.

“Battles are won by spirit. And spirit is present in the relationships built from trust and sacrifice we share with one another in times of hardship, and, by that definition, cannot be possessed by one person.

“Without the team, there could be no Medal of Honor. That is why I wear this medal for my team.”


Warm up questions
  1. What are the 5 branches of the U.S. military?
  2. What do you know about the U.S. military and the war in Afghanistan?
  3. What is bravery? What are some ways that people demonstrate bravery?
Discussion questions
  1. Is the Medal of Honor a good way to honor soldiers? Why or why not? What kind of emotions do you think former Army Sgt. Kyle White was feeling during the ceremony at the White House?
  2. The Medal of Honor can only awarded to a small fraction of our men and women in the armed forces, even though many probably deserve to be honored for their service to the country. What are some other ways that we can honor the brave men and women who are part of our military? What can you personally do?
Writing prompt

Within the video, former Army Sgt. Kyle White and President Obama both spoke about the attack on the platoon, and Sgt. White’s actions. If you had to pick three characteristics to describe Sgt. White’s actions during the attack what would they be? Make sure to give evidence to support your claims. Then, think of three characteristics that make a great soldier (you may have some overlap from your first answer) and explain why they matter. Finally, very briefly give one example of how you can honor the men and women in the armed forces.

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