What It's Like to Be a Medal of Honor Recipient

Left of Boom Episode 15: What It's Like to Be a Medal of Honor Recipient
Left of Boom Episode 15: What It's Like to Be a Medal of Honor Recipient

Receiving the Medal of Honor -- the nation's highest honor recognizing bravery in combat -- means joining an elite fraternity: there are only 69 living recipients, spanning conflicts from World War II to Afghanistan. At 33, Kyle White is one of the youngest. And now, six years after receiving the medal, he's making a point of telling his whole story, including his fight to overcome personal demons from battle and his adjustment to the unexpected fame that comes with the medal. He joins Left of Boom to talk about life after the Medal of Honor, and his new mission to help veterans.

Read Kyle White's first two columns for Military.com below:

After I Received the Medal of Honor, the Hardest Battle of My Life Began

This Holiday Season, You Have the Chance to Be a True Hero

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Mentioned in this episode:

Medal of Honor

Kyle White

The War in Afghanistan

Being a Medal of Honor Recipient

Mental Health Care for Veterans

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Left of Boom:

Hope Hodge Seck 0:00

Kyle White was a 19-year-old Army specialist on November 9, 2007, when his unit got pinned down by enemy fire on a mountainside in Afghanistan's Nuristan province. Despite being briefly knocked unconscious by the impact of a rocket-propelled grenade and later taking shrapnel to the face. White acted with bravery and instinct, exposing himself to a hail of incoming bullets to attend to a wounded soldier and Marine. He used his own belt as a tourniquet, saving the soldiers life, then he once again risked enemy fire to retrieve a working radio from another fallen comrade, and provided information to friendly forces who delivered airstrikes on the enemy and a MEDEVAC flight. Kyle White would receive the Medal of Honor in 2014, just the seventh living veteran of the war in Afghanistan to receive the nation's highest military award. Today, he's a 33-year-old financial analyst who has worked to overcome the scars of war and chart a new path for himself and his family. But he still carries a burden: the responsibility he feels to help other veterans also battling their demons. I've been honored to have a number of conversations with Kyle over the last year, and it is my distinct honor today to welcome him to Left of Boom. Kyle White, thank you so much for being on the show.

Kyle White 1:18

Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Hope Hodge Seck 1:20

There are a number of serious topics that I know we'll get around to talking about. But let me start off with something a little bit lighter. You're authorized to wear your metal anywhere you want, right?

Kyle White 1:30

I am.

Hope Hodge Seck 1:31

And on what events and occasions do you find yourself putting it on these days?

Kyle White 1:36

I you know, I'm actually pretty selective of when I choose to wear the medal. You know, naturally, if I go to any sort of nonprofit organization where I'm speaking on, you know, anything related to education, community, employment, or especially mental health, I'll wear it, just because it's important for not only, you know what I'm there to talk about, but for, you know, the American people, because, you know, there's only 69 living recipients at this moment in time. And so it's increasingly rare to actually have a chance to meet one. And so it always spurs, you know, excellent conversation. And it's always, you know, a special thing for for the people who are attending and really makes it some people's days, and I enjoy that.

Hope Hodge Seck 2:23

Do people come up to you, and they see you wearing it? Do a lot of people just recognize it and what it stands for?

Kyle White 2:30

So it's actually kind of funny, you know, I could walk into a room and especially at one of these events prior to putting the medal on, and most people won't recognize me, or, you know, they're kind of looking at me, like, he looks familiar, but I'm not sure who he is. But you know, the second that goes on? Yeah, it's just questions, and you know, everything. And for the most part, I'll say that the general public is pretty knowledgeable about the Medal of Honor. And, you know, I think, one-on-one dialogue that's, you know, not structured and just the random interactions you have with people. You know, it's always relevant, excellent questions just about, you know, what it's like being a recipient, what it's like, you know, that day earning the Medal of Honor and what it means to me. So it's excellent.

Hope Hodge Seck 3:17

So there's some part of human nature where we always wonder, at least, to make it personal, I know I wonder. If I was in the right circumstances and had to risk my life for someone else, could I do it? Would I make the right choices that I would hope that I would make? And I think there's also a small part of me that hopes that someday I'll have the chance to prove to myself that I could. Was this ever a part of your thinking? Did you ever think before you were deployed to a combat zone that this might be a chance to demonstrate extraordinary bravery? Or how did you think about that?

Kyle White 3:54

That's an interesting question, because I get asked a variation of that pretty often. And I always come back to the training our leadership instilled in us. And that's the only reason why I did any of the actions I did that day, or really, anyone on the patrol did what they did. So you mentioned at that moment, you know, do we all have the ability to act upon it? And, you know, really, it came down to preparation for us, you know, I had never had any thoughts in my head that I was going to be put into a situation where that level of an ambush would occur. You know, I think there's a certain expectation when you deploy that you're gonna see some sort of action, especially in 2007, 2008 in Afghanistan, but, you know, being tested on that level is something I never expected, but our leadership knew that an incident or incidents like that one would happen and so they really ensured we were prepared, not only to, you know, know our jobs, the best that we could, but so that the people left and right of us, make sure that if somebody was taken out of action or killed in action that we're able to continue the fight, know our jobs and win the day. And so when it came down to, you know, making decisions of, 'Hey, do I go out and try to help Sgt. [inaudible]? Or do I return fire? Do I call this over the radio?' I mean, it's all falling back on your training. So anybody has the ability to do it when called upon. But it's preparation. That's key.

Hope Hodge Seck 5:26

Well said. The day that you earned the Medal of Honor, November 9, 2007 -- were you able to talk about those events? What happened immediately after? Or did it take a while? And if so, what was that process for you?

Kyle White 5:43

Yeah, immediately after that day, you know, whether people know or not, I actually traveled back to the states for a few weeks to attend some of the funerals for the guys who were killed in action. You know, specifically Sean Langevin, who's, you know, my best friend I had in the Army. He was killed on 9 November 2007. So, you know, when returning back from those funerals, you know, went right back to work, you know, got back into Afghanistan, going on patrols, finishing out the deployment for, you know, all the way till July 2008. And so, you know, after coming back to Italy, redeploying. It took a long time for me to be comfortable enough to, 'Hey, this is what I went through.' I recognized pretty early on that I needed to go get some help. And I think, you know, we talked about that briefly, and some of these other conversations. And that's well documented. But I think it was all the way beyond, you know, being awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014. So six-and-a-half years later after the date of action, you know, it really, I think it was a point that closed a chapter for me. So being able to talk about that day, you know, what it really meant to me, not only as somebody who was there, but also as recipient with kind of that responsibility of sharing the stories of those who were killed in action, and really just honoring their legacy. It's been a challenging time, especially the first couple of years, just to be able to speak on that in a way that I thought was, you know, up to the standard that that their stories deserved. And here I am, you know, almost six years later, after being awarded the medal. And now it's something that I just I want to share, I want to have these conversations, because it is so important to ensure the legacy of our military service and the actions are never forgotten, and they're honored appropriately.

Hope Hodge Seck 7:41

So six and a half years after that day in the combat zone is when you received the Medal. That's a significant chunk of time. Can you recall the day that you were told that you would receive the Medal of Honor, and what that was like and what you were thinking and feeling?

Kyle White 7:59

It's an interesting process, because it's not like they just call you out of the blue or the president of the United States calls you out of the blue and is like, 'Hey, it's Barack Obama, this is what's gonna happen.' But it's like, you know, I remember finishing up college in December 2013. And I just got my first job offer on New Year's Eve of that year, as well. So a little after New Year's I was sitting there with my girlfriend, who's now my wife, and saying, you know, everything kind of has fallen into place lately. I bet I get a call on that award sometime soon. And sure enough, it was like a week and a half later, you know, some some crusty colonel from the Pentagon gave me a call and told me, you know, after obviously verifying my identity and things of that nature, that he couldn't tell me what it was about, but he he's sure, after six and a half years, I could figure it out -- that a military senior military official would be calling me in the next couple of weeks. And so, you know, another kind of little funny story about that is, you know, he made sure that I knew I was not to tell anybody about this conversation, not even, you know, my girlfriend, my parents, my best friend, any of that. I was like, you know, sir, yes, sir, all that stuff. And we hung up and into the conversation. But then I remember, I was like, you know, I think I'm coming up on my, you know, like eight years of full commitment. I think my inactive Reserve time is ending. And so, I checked the date, and sure enough, it was like three days before. So I was like, man, I don't care what, he can't do nothing. And so I called and told everybody.

Hope Hodge Seck 9:29

I love that. Like, you've got nothing on me, this is my story to tell.

Kyle White 9:35

Exactly. But I you know, the actual conversation with the president of the United States at that point in time, Barack Obama, was a surreal experience. You know, people always ask me, you know, what you talk about and, you know, I sum it up by saying I blacked out, but I had adrenaline pumping, because, you know, regardless of how you feel of about the person sitting in the office at the time, I mean, it's still the president of the United States calling you on your cell phone with a broken screen. On your lunch break. And so it was just incredibly short conversation. But, you know, it's lots of 'Yes, Mr. President' and then the conversation is over, but basically just informed me that, you know, he's approving the award for the Medal of Honor. And that he's looking forward to having me and my family and some of my fellow service members up there to celebrate the day. And so, yeah, I'll always remember that specific conversation and just how it felt, it was incredible.

Hope Hodge Seck 10:30

So what happens after that? How does your life change after you hang up the phone?

Kyle White 10:34

It's interesting process, because I always say this to this day, I'm just a regular person, just like everybody else, you know, I'm sitting here in my, my bedroom office in a neighborhood where nobody knows who I am. You know, that's the way it was before getting that call. And so the military has, you know, senior leadership has a way of, you know, helping us prepare for that life-changing day, you know, when you're awarded the medal. And so it's a little bit of catching up to speed on, you know, the media process, and how to interview and things like that. And it's really an important step, because, you know, having no exposure to that, to expecting to be talking in front of the country in a matter of weeks. You know, it's a big adjustment, in that nothing really changed until that day, you know, when the President draped the award around my neck, because, again, just regular guy, just going about my business, but then after that, it's, your face is everywhere, might might be for 15 minutes, but it's still a big adjustment, and something that's hard to take in, for sure. Especially because, you know, at the end of the day, we just did what we were trained to do, I always felt and I still feel like, to this day, I did the bare minimum I could. You play the endless game of could have, would have, should have for years on end, trying to think about ways you could have done things better that day. And then, at a moment in time being recognized for that. It's a tough thing. It's it's a tough process.

Hope Hodge Seck 12:01

So what do you remember from the day itself? Was it a similar kind of blackout situation? Or do you have specific memories of what took place?

Kyle White 12:10

I think there are certain aspects of that day I'll always remember. And I'll tell a funny story in a moment. But I always felt so bad, because when you get ready to go to the White House for the ceremony, there's kind of a tradition of being escorted by D.C. police, I believe they're called. And so you know, they came and got us pretty early in the morning, I'd say like, nine or so. I definitely could tell there's a heavy flow of traffic in the D.C. metro area. And they were shutting roads down. And I just I felt so bad, because like you tell it's just ruining people's day. It's quite an interesting experience. But I'll say one of the funniest moments was, you get a brief tour of the White House, and then you're gonna officially go into the Oval Office, and that's where President Obama will sign the award declaration. And that's really when you become, you know, an official Medal of Honor recipient. And usually, it's tradition right after that signature, you're marched down to the room, to where were the actual ceremony is held, but, you know, we're sitting outside the Oval Office, and my girlfriend at that point in time had spent what I think is an inappropriate amount of time in the morning preparing for the day, naturally so. But she's like, oh, man, I have to go to the bathroom, and they're like, oh, there's a restroom right there. And she's like, OK, great. And she goes in, and, you know, it's coming up, and they're like, and it's, you know, just a couple of minutes. Let's make sure everybody's ready. You know, he's gonna open the door and greet you guys. And like, OK, great. And so, it was kind of like, 'Hey, Helen, you know, we gotta go.' She's like, 'OK.' and I'm sure everybody knows this. But White House is very old. Like, last time it was, you know, had a redo ... And so a lot of the door seals in the doors swell during the heat. And so this is May, you know, it's getting pretty warm in DC. And so, you know, I hear a jiggle at the door. And then the jiggle gets a little louder, and then I hear pounding on the door, because the door had swelled shut.

Hope Hodge Seck 14:07

She got stuck in the bathroom?

Kyle White 14:11

Yes, she did. And so I gave it a quick shoulder and got her out there. But, you know, it's like her hair is, you could tell she got flustered and scared. And it was just a funny moment. And then probably 15 seconds later, you know, the president opens it up, and was like, I'm Barack Obama, and everything else happened from there. And that's probably one of the moments I regret the most is actually spending time in the Oval Office and not taking a few moments to go around and ask about you know, why he chose this picture. Or, you know, why, why is this color here? Just things like that, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I was just there like, not knowing what to do or say, you know, kind of like a time I wish I would have embraced a little bit more and slowed down to ask some of those questions. But yeah, it's an excellent experience. He's very personable guy, had a great conversation with myself, my family. So it was excellent.

Hope Hodge Seck 15:02

I've always been fascinated, and this is something you talked about just briefly, but the element of fame that comes with the Medal of Honor. So, you know, it's years possibly since you were deployed, you're just doing your job or otherwise living your life. And all of a sudden, you're at the White House, you're on national news, people know your name, maybe people even come up to you on the street. What is that like making that transition, and what parts of it are fun, and what parts of it are more difficult?

Kyle White 15:33

It was a incredibly difficult transition. Just because I even treated my time in college after the military, I stayed to myself, treated it like a job. And so I kept a small circle of friends. Naturally, I've always been probably a little bit of a smaller circle type of guy. And so, you know, having everybody know your name, and coming up and asking for pictures and autographs and things like that. I mean, it's just so, it's very challenging at first to know how it is, and to not be kind of in that fight-or-flight mode. So if people come and just like, you know, try to go the other way, and avoid the situation, but I mean, it really is an instant, overnight thing. And, and it's tough, because part of you wants to just disappear and go back to your, your regular job and continue living your life. But, you know, there's another part of you that understands this is an incredibly important responsibility that's been, you know, bestowed upon you and in being able to handle that appropriately and understanding the platform that you're given as a recipient, the focus quickly shifts to, "OK, you know, how can I use this to better the situation for our nation's veterans?' or 'How can I improve things in the military for servicemembers in their their families?' And so I guess the thing that made it easier eventually was finding what I wanted to stand for, what my purpose was as a recipient. And so I know, I think I mentioned a little bit earlier, but I'm very passionate about anything involving, you know, the story of the American veteran. So what are the challenges of transition into the civilian life from military service in? How does that look for education and employment opportunities? And how does care post-military, both physical and mental health care, how can we make that better, anything involved in those three, I lend my time, and that's really what gets me excited, and, you know, willing to tell my story. It's anything I could do to help further those things, because while there has been an incredible amount of progress in the mental health care space, you know, that stigma still exists. And so, you know, the more people we can get out, speaking about their experiences, telling their stories of healing and moving on with their life, I think it's not gonna only resonate with particular military-connected members of our society, but really the general population, especially considering some of the challenging times we're all facing as a country and really, as a people globally, the more we can normalize some of these conversations, I think, the more success we'll see across the board.

Hope Hodge Seck 18:18

So let's talk more about that. It seemed like not long ago, you came to a decision that you wanted to share more broadly your own story, and even your struggles following the Medal of Honor and the lows that you hit before you were finally able to seek help. So what brought you to that decision?

Kyle White 18:39

I think there's two parts of that. So the the first part was understanding that there was a moment in time back in 2009-2010, where I recognized that I needed help. And it was largely from the people, I kept it in that inner circle. So your friends, your family, you know, they really were the ones that recognize the change more than I did myself, especially because I was drinking too much, just doing all the things that we we would think one would do to try to forget something that happened to them. And so understanding what drove me to that decision and how good it felt to be back to feeling myself a couple years later, really, I have only recently understood, I guess, the importance of that and how much I want other people to have that same feeling. And so my decision recently to share more of my story, to be more open and vulnerable about not only the mental health care space, but just, you know, being a recipient and what that's like, as a regular American. You know, I'm just hoping to get that message out, that once you get to know me, you'll understand that I'm no different than anybody else. I just had a couple-hour timeframe in my life that I did my job and, you know, somebody decided that it was worth being recognized. You know, and here I am. But I face the same struggles that a lot of the other population does, especially because, you know, post-traumatic stress and a lot of things that we, you know, associate with mental health care are not just a result of combat, you know, they're not just a result of serving in the military, it's can happen from a car accident, or some sort of traumatic experience, sexual assault, or regular physical assault, in a grocery store, whatever it may be. It does not care what your income is, what your education background is, it will, you know, affect everybody from all walks of life. And we just need to understand that, you know, nobody's excluded from it. And we just need to do better for each other, the more we can all share our experiences and normalize this, you know, the better. It's so funny. So like my daughter, this last weekend, you know, she was sick, and we were obviously worried about COVID. And so we took her in and got tested. But that was just, you know, it wasn't even a decision, it was just, hey, something's wrong, let's go to the doctor, let's get a fix. And so if it's something we can see and recognize as some sort of physical, I guess, has physical attributes that we can recognize, you know, we know what to do -- go to the doctor. But for some reason, we just have this mentality that because I can't see what's wrong, because I can't tell you what hurts or what doesn't that, you know, it's not worth that same attention. And it's just, it's ridiculous, it's time to change that. And I think we're making great strides in recent years, and I've seen some excellent national campaigns from a lot of people that we all recognize when encouraging mental health care treatment, but you know, it's not enough because we're still seeing, you know, suicide rates up in active and veteran populations. And it's just, you know, something we need to change as a, as a country.

Hope Hodge Seck 21:49

That's such a poignant analogy that you made, you know, if you're sick, if you're not feeling well, you go to the doctor, and, and it should be that normal, that straightforward, that stigma free. I know a lot of these battles are in retrospect now, or there's a little bit of space for you, but can you talk about some of the unhealthy thought processes and kind of cycles that you had to confront to leave some of those dark places behind?

Kyle White 22:17

Yeah, you know, for me, you know, I was I was drinking a lot, basically, trying to forget, what I would later learn is what I viewed as my failure. And so you hear this a lot, and I have from various people in all different walks of life, but you can't play the coulda, woulda, shoulda game. And I think that's probably something that caused me the most trouble initially, just because I started to think about, you know, oh, if I just remember I had this map, instead of my GPS, I could have, you know, looked at this. Or if I just scan that spot, when we did a security haul, like we would have saw, so and so, you know, all these different situations. But, you know, at the end of the day, and really, you know, through treatment, realizing that, you know, there's nothing you could have done to change the outcome. I think it took a while to accept that. But once I did, that's when I can really start the healing process. And really, I think some of the forgiveness process within myself, instead of blaming myself for things I didn't do, you know, start accepting the things I did, and realizing that the outcome was because of, that's the way it was gonna be. I mean, it's war. I think it was just a lot of a lot of self-reflection, a lot of sharing what I was feeling, but, you know, I think that was probably some of the most difficult. because, you know, you can, you can ask my wife now, telling you exactly what's on my mind is a difficult task at some point. So in many ways, I still haven't learned but, you know, when it comes to, when it came to that, I realized that I needed to move on from this at some point in finding really what was bothering me and why I was, you know, self-medicating, why I was trying to forget, you know, it's important piece of it. And really, once I figured that out and had that 'aha moment,' where, you know, I understood why I was doing what I was doing, it was much easier to continue the process and really try to get back to better and it felt great once I did.

Hope Hodge Seck 24:21

I'm sure there are a lot of veterans out there who think that if anyone has access to all the help, all the resources, all of the the means of care, it would be a Medal of Honor recipient. But what is the reality there? What did you find to be the case?

Kyle White 24:39

Wait, wait, you need to understand to is, by the time I had sought treatment, you know, still many years before being awarded the Medal of Honor in so, you know, I had access to the same resources that any active-duty service member had at that point in time. So you know, I just basically was like, I got to take charge of this for myself, because You know, still a lot of stigma associated with it. Again, this is back in 2010-2009. But, you know, if I was gonna move on for this in, you know, I need to do myself. And so, you know, I found the resources and went out there and took care of it. But I think we're at a very interesting point today, where you're seen, and I mostly speak from the point of the Army, because I follow that the closest still to this day, but you're seeing more normalizing conversations from senior leadership, you know, just recently, over this last holiday, saw some messaging from certain majors, the Army, you know, encouraging checking in on your battle buddies, and everything about loneliness, and depression and things like that could be associated with COVID, during the holidays. And, yeah, that's, that's important to see that type of messaging change, you know, if you're seeing it from senior leaders, I mean, that's, that's excellent. But, you know, we're also seeing it in the private sector, where we understand that the VA is a tremendous resource, by having some auxiliary services that are privately funded or privately sponsored, you know, come in and offer additional options to help complement their services. I mean, it hasn't been at a higher level, I think since these wars began. I do some work with the Cohen veterans network, and whether you're familiar with them, or whether you're not, you know, they had a private, you know, donation by the founder, Steven Cohen, which, you know, his mission is setting up 25 clinics across the country to offer free mental health care for veterans and their family members. And so that's been a wonderful project to be involved with, really, almost since the beginning, you know, you go around to these communities that have large veteran populations. And, you know, you really see its impact, because at the end of the day, you know, it's not about where these veterans and their families go for help, but just the fact that they're getting help, you know, that's what we all need to be focused on. You know, seeing those resources, all these different nonprofits starting up their own campaigns, their own resources. Obviously, the push for telehealth is something that's pretty major across, I guess, all industries now, you know, having those resources available to people that are working remotely, who, you know, you don't see face to face every day. It's incredibly important. So seeing the conversation in the tone change, both with leadership, and you know, the general population, America, I think, you know, we're seeing positive movement in the right direction.

Hope Hodge Seck 27:25

With your personal journey to tell your story and sort of point veterans in the right direction. I'm so honored that you've written a first piece for Military.com. And there's more on the way, so definitely stay tuned. But what feedback have you gotten so far? And what are you hearing from veterans as you reach out?

Kyle White 27:45

It's interesting, yeah, I wrote that piece. And I didn't quite know how it was gonna be received. To me when I when I wrote that it was just a very natural, you know, I sat down probably for 15 minutes and just wrote it, because it's just straight from my, my mind to the paper. But I always get nervous. I think even when I speak or appear on any sort of interview, I worry about the messaging being right, and things of that nature, but I didn't, I guess I didn't care in that one. I just wanted to truly just be me. And it's interesting, because I guess it really did resonate with people, because I had, you know, plenty of messages on, you know, some of the social media platforms and people calling me that I used to serve with and people I know now and in different industries, who had never even served a day in their life, but just understood, I guess, everything that I was talking about in some capacity or another. And so it was excellent. I think there's a few people that I know of personally, that decided it was time to go talk to somebody again, or, you know, start some of the healthy habits they learned when they were in treatment, and things of that nature. And so the feedback was positive, I was surprised. But I think the most important part is people I was hoping it would resonate with, it seemed to resonate with them. And what I mean by that is those that maybe think they need to go get help, or maybe somebody has told them, they need to get help, but they still have just not made that decision. Because, you know, at the end of the day, you can have all these resources available for everybody, but it's still up to that individual person to make the decision that, 'Hey, I want a change, I want to feel, you know, good again,' I want to move on from this event, whatever it may be, that it's affecting their mental health, they still have to make that decision to go get the help. And so we just need to, you know, encourage that push and I was hoping that's what the article got across. And it seemed to, and that was a good feeling. Just because, you know, I know that at least a handful of people that did contact me, you know, they're on their way to feeling good again, and that's a very powerful event in one's life, you know, to say, Hey, I'm taking charge of this and I'm not gonna I'm not gonna live like this anymore. It was good feeling.

Hope Hodge Seck 30:05

So encouraging here that was it come to the end of our time, I know people will want to know where they can find you and to engage further. Can you tell us what your public networks are these days? And how people can track you down?

Kyle White 30:19

Yeah, yeah. So I'm on Facebook, and Instagram and Twitter. And I do have a LinkedIn page as well. And so, you know, I'm still going through some of like, the verification processes, not that I have a big following or anything, but there's a lot of fake profiles out there. And so I can't believe I even have to say this. But listeners, if somebody claiming to be me is asking you for money, I promise you, it's not me.

Hope Hodge Seck 30:46

That's when you know you've made it, right. When you've got Kyle White impersonators out there.

Kyle White 30:50

I guess ... I don't know. But yeah, regardless, I decided to make the move to social media, because I was, I only had a LinkedIn profile. But I kept getting so many messages from Hey, there's a fake profile here, this fake profile here. And I was like, You know what, I don't want anybody to get scammed out of anything. And I definitely don't want to respond to any of these messages anymore. So I might as well just start, start going out there and making my presence known. So it's been great. Lots of excellent conversations, and, you know, new organizations and resources I've learned about since doing so. And yeah, it's it's been fun. But yep, I'm out there.

Hope Hodge Seck 31:28

That's great. Well, before I let you go, there's another element of all this, that has always fascinated me. As you mentioned, you're part of this exclusive fraternity now with only, I think you said 69 living members. And when when Medal of Honor recipients get together, what do you talk about? What is that like, when you find yourself in a group with all of these incredible people?

Kyle White 31:53

Normally, there was a smaller convention this year, but normally, there's an annual convention that's, you know, hosted in a different city across the country. And that's, you know, one of, but probably the largest event that we all try to get together, so anybody who's still traveling, because, you know, a lot of the the 69 recipients, you know, they're from some Korea, Vietnam, there's, you know, one left from World War II, but you know, they're getting up there in age, and so a lot of them aren't traveling anymore. But, you know, it's the one place where as a recipient, I guess you don't have to worry about being a recipient, because everybody else around you is, especially in the smaller, like closed off events in the public ones, it's excellent to engage with, you know, the public that would, you know, very rarely get a chance to see one not if multiple recipients at the same time, but you know, when we're all together, it's it's talking about our families, and what we're doing for work and, you know, sports teams, all that all that different stuff. There's a lot of avid outdoorsmen within the society. And so it's always, you know, fun to see who's got the biggest fish are, you know, where did somebody go hunting this year, that that type of thing. But when we get together, it's still very much business-oriented, you know, concerned with programs and, you know, things that we're trying to work on as a society as well, as, you know, 'Hey, where do these resources need to go? What's out there?' Where can we lend our, you know, assistance in promoting care programs, mental health, anything along that nature. And that's really what we try to do. Our big initiative right now is the character development program. And so, you know, briefly before we close out, it's one of the things I enjoy being involved with the most I would say, and then it's an education program, really, for K-12. So obviously, different lessons for different levels. But you know, your long process where you teach the students about the values that encompass the Medal of Honor, so it's, it's things like citizenship, you know, courage, things of that nature. And it's excellent to be able to see these kids, you know, whoever, otherwise never have a chance to meet a recipient or even learn about them. Their teachers talk with him at the beginning of the year. And then oftentimes, at the end of the year, they actually get a live recipient to, to come in and speak to their class. And, you know, it's just amazing what these kids learn and in how they listen to these stories and take the lessons away what it means to them. It's, it's an incredible thing to witness and, yeah, so we spend our time on a lot of stuff and, and naturally, you know, when everyone gets together, it's always a great time.

Hope Hodge Seck 34:32

Well, Kyle, I've been looking forward to this conversation for a really long time. I really enjoyed talking with you and getting to learn a little bit more. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Kyle White 34:43

Thank you for having me. This was a wonderful time.

Hope Hodge Seck 34:53

Thanks for joining us once again at Left of Boom. It's 2021 and we have a whole new lineup of incredible guests for you. You won't want to miss a single episode. Go ahead and subscribe to Left of Boom wherever you get your podcasts, and check out our full season of back episodes while you're there. If you do have a special request for an interview topic, send me an email at podcast@military.com, and let me know. And in between episodes, be sure to check Military.com every single day for all the news and information you need about your military community. See you back soon.

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