Work Inducts Former Army Sergeant Into Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 14, 2014 Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work led a Pentagon salute to the newest Medal of Honor recipient, as former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White was inducted into the Hall of Heroes here today.
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work presents the Medal of Honor flag to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White, the most recent Medal of Honor recipient, during a ceremony to induct White into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, May 14, 2014. President Barack Obama awarded White the medal for courageous actions while serving as a platoon radio telephone operator during combat operations against an armed enemy in Afghanistan's Nuristan province, Nov. 9, 2007. DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Joined by Army Undersecretary Brad R. Carson, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, as well as other DOD leaders, Work led White’s induction.
Work called it a “singular honor” to represent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is traveling in the Middle East, at the ceremony. “As a former Army sergeant, he would be right here if he was in the country,” the deputy secretary said. “But he is out of the country today and has asked me to represent him. I do so with great honor.”
Following an account from Odierno of the Nov. 9, 2007, ambush outside the village of Aranas in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province that claimed the lives of five soldiers and a Marine, and remarks by Carson, the deputy defense secretary lauded the former sergeant for his “extraordinary heroism.”
“Now, quite frankly,” he said, “there’s little more that I can add to the stirring account that General Odierno gave of the battle … and the selfless and heroic actions that Sergeant White performed that day for which he was awarded our nation’s highest award for bravery -- the Medal of Honor.”
Work said he also couldn’t improve on the “heartfelt explanation” provided by Carson of how White’s actions embody the very best of what makes all soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen “singularly special and part of the greatest armed forces that this world has ever seen.”
The deputy secretary touched on the “unbelievably small and extraordinary brotherhood” of Medal of Honor recipients White joined and what it means to those who have served the nation.
“Secretary Carson mentioned the first Medal of Honor was awarded in 1863 in the midst of one of the greatest catastrophes our nation has ever had -- our Civil War,” Work said. “And perhaps, fittingly for the audience today, it was awarded to another soldier. … Pvt. Jacob Parrott, Company K, 33rd Ohio Infantry, one of six survivors of the daring raid that the undersecretary talked about, sent 200 miles behind enemy lines to disrupt Confederate railroad traffic.”
Since then, Work noted, 40 million Americans -- men and women -- have either volunteered or been drafted to serve in times of war spanning from 1863 to both world wars to the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and “countless small, bloody wars and battles around the globe.”
“Of those 40 million servicemen and women,” he said, “only 3,488 -- counting Sergeant White -- have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Now I want you to think about that for just one second. Since 1863, we have awarded this medal less than 3,500 times.”
It is reserved for a select few, he said, who have responded above and beyond the call of duty and risked their lives in selfless acts of bravery.
“In all of World War II, only 464 medals were awarded. In Korea, 133. In Vietnam, 246,” Work said. “And of the 2.5 million American service members who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since the terrible attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sergeant White is the 14th recipient of this honor.”
Work said this is why, by custom, every service member, regardless of rank or position, “stands and salutes anyone who wears the pale blue medal adorned with stars around their necks.”
“It is also why we consider the Hall of Heroes such a hallowed and storied place,” he added. “It represents the highest soldierly virtues of literally millions of men and women who have risked their own lives, and often given them, for their country, and their brothers and sisters-in-arms in battle.”
The deputy defense secretary told White that through his “inspiring actions in that narrow pass in Afghanistan [on] that cold day in November,” he has proven himself worthy to be a member of this select group.
Work said he, Hagel and everyone in the Defense Department could not be more proud of White, his unit and the Army, and he then asked White to stand and face the crowd. “And I’d ask that everyone who has served in uniform, and is either in uniform or not, to stand with me and salute this American hero today,” he said.
Work also recognized the five soldiers and one Marine who lost their lives in the Nuristan ambush, leading a moment of silence.
“Sergeant White, these fine young men, your fellow warriors -- your brothers-in-arms -- although no longer of this Earth, are going to be with you forever,” he said. “I’m sure they’re toasting you now, applauding your life that you’ve lived since their deaths and cheering your future accomplishments.”
After all, he said, the very purpose of the Medal of Honor is to celebrate in both gratitude and remembrance the example set by someone who has answered the call to service.
“I hope that all Americans come to know your service [and] to know the exceptional courage you displayed on behalf of your fellow soldiers and Marines,” Work said. “On behalf of Secretary Hagel, thank you, Kyle. May God bless you and your family, and all those like you in the greatest Army on the planet, who volunteered to serve and fight our nation’s foes wherever they may be found.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)