CEDAR RAPIDS Kain Schilling of Palo said Thursday he owes his life to a soldier whose bravery will be recognized with the Medal of Honor next month at the White House.
Schilling, 27, said former Army Sgt. Kyle White, also 27, comforted and protected him for four hours after he was repeatedly and severely wounded in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan on Nov. 9, 2007.
"He stayed with me, talked with me, kept me conscious. If Kyle hadn't been there, I definitely would have died," said Schilling, a Cedar Rapids native and 2005 graduate of Cedar Rapids Prairie High School.
While under near constant enemy fire, White put tourniquets on his two gunshot wounds, either of which would have otherwise proved fatal, Schilling said Thursday at the Iowa National Guard Readiness Center in southwest Cedar Rapids.
"I was amazed that he stayed with me as we were both getting shot at," said Schilling, who will attend the May 13 White House ceremony, at which President Barack Obama will present the Medal of Honor to its seventh living recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001.
White, of Charlotte, N.C., and Schilling were part of a team made up of U.S. and Afghan troops that was set up and ambushed by a much larger and more heavily armed Taliban force after a meeting with Afghan villagers.
White was initially knocked out by a rocket-propelled grenade blast. When he came to, 10 of the 14 Americans and all their Afghan allies had been forced to slide down a rocky cliff to avoid enemy fire, leaving White with Schilling, Marine Sgt. Phillip Bocks and the platoon leader, 1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara.
White exposed himself to enemy fire in attempts to help Bocks and Ferrara, who were among the six Americans killed in the attack.
While ministering to Schilling, White used Bock's radio to bring in mortars, artillery, airstrikes and helicopter gun runs to keep the enemy at bay. He also marked the landing zone and helped load the wounded into the helicopter before allowing himself to be evacuated, according to the official account of the battle.
While watching White dodge bullets in attempts to help his comrades, Schilling said he remembers thinking, "There's no way he's going to make it."
Schilling said they were friends before the battle but now White is "part of our family."
"We talk all the time. He knows how I feel about the medal. It's something he deserves," Schilling said.
Schilling spent nearly a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., recovering from wounds that included shattered bones in his arm and leg.
"Running is still a little tough, and I have limited range of motion in my right arm," he said.
Not surprisingly, Schilling is still being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. "The treatment works. It helps me. People should go out and get it," he said.
Asked how the battle affected him, Schilling replied, "I try not to take things for granted. I'm grateful for every little thing."
Schilling, who was medically retired from the Army in October 2008, works in security at the Duane Arnold Energy Center near Palo. He and Molly Fowler of Fairfax plan to be married next year.
Schilling enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard in November 2003 and transferred to the active duty U.S. Army in July 2006.