WASHINGTON — Former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White, who will be awarded the Medal of Honor next month, said troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder shouldn’t suffer in silence.
“There’s no shame in going and getting help,” White, who was diagnosed with PTSD before he left the military, said at a news conference Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.
The first thing that servicemembers with symptoms of PTSD need to do is reach out and get help, he said. “These servicemembers need to realize that they went to war and they made it back, but they might have some scars remaining. Reach out to your chain of command, and they will help you get the treatment that you need. If I can do it … then there’s no reason they can’t as well.”
He said getting troops to come forward and tell people they’re suffering is perhaps the biggest challenge to tackling the mental health issues that many combat veterans face.
The treatment and assistance programs are out there, he said. “But I think it’s just those first steps — that servicemember who needs help coming forward and actually admitting, ‘Hey, I need to go see somebody’ — that’s the issue that needs to be addressed, I believe.”
White, 27, will receive the Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest award for military valor — for his actions during a dismounted movement in mountainous terrain in Aranas, Afghanistan, on Nov. 9, 2007.
White was serving as a Platoon Radio Telephone Operator assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, when his team of U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers were set up and ambushed by a much larger, more heavily armed Taliban force after a meeting with Afghan villagers. During a marathon battle, he exposed himself to heavy enemy fire and risked his life numerous times to help his wounded comrades.
By the time the fight in Aranas ended, six U.S. servicemembers had been killed. White paid tribute to his fallen comrades at the news conference.
“On 9 November, 2007, America did not lose five Soldiers and one Marine, but gained six heroes,” he said. “I will forever be a voice for them. I will tell their stories and preserve their memories. … Although they are gone, they will not be forgotten. Their sacrifice and the sacrifices of so many others is what motivates me to wake up each and every day and be the best that I can be. Anything I do in my life is done to make them proud.”
White also offered some advice to younger servicemembers for improving their chances of surviving war.
“Take all of the advice you can from those who have been deployed before, those who have more experience than you, and then also your leadership,” he said. “Learn as much as you can, and then take as much advice that’s out there, because that piece of advice that that leader gives you could be the one that saves you or your buddy’s life.”
White will be awarded the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony on May 13. He will be the seventh living recipient to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
White, a native of Seattle, separated from the Army on July 8, 2011, and used his GI Bill to attend the University of North Carolina. He now works as an investment analyst for the Royal Bank of Canada in Charlotte.