Seven years ago, Army Spc. Kyle J. White was on a narrow path in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan when he and his U.S. military comrades walked into an ambush.
As one fellow soldier went down, White, then 20, rushed over to help, using his body to shield the wounded man from enemy fire.
On Tuesday, White received the Medal of Honor for distinguishing himself by "acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty" on Nov. 9, 2007.
"With bullets impacting all around him, Kyle ran to Bocks and began to pull the injured Marine to cover," the president explained. "But worried that he'd exposed Bocks to more gunfire, Kyle retreated. The enemy rounds followed him. He ran out again, pulling Bocks a little farther. And once more, he retreated to distract the enemy fire.
"Once more he went out, over and over, thinking to himself, I'm not going to make it. Kyle could feel the pressure of the rounds going by him. But somehow, miraculously, they never hit him, not once. One of his teammates said it was as if Kyle was moving faster than a speeding bullet."
With "enemy rounds ricocheting around his feet and snapping past his head," White dragged Bocks out of the line of fire, according to an Army account.
When the first soldier sustained another wound, White pulled off his belt and applied it as a tourniquet. He then exposed himself to enemy fire "yet again" in order to retrieve a radio and call in airstrikes on the enemy.
Even after suffering a concussion and having been struck in the face by shrapnel, White oversaw the evacuation of the wounded. "Only after all wounded were off the trail did White allow himself to be evacuated," according to the Army.
"Tragically, there on that cliff, Sgt. Bocks succumbed to his wounds," Obama said. "But in his final moments, this American Marine surely found some solace in Kyle White, the American soldier who until the very end was there by his side."
One of the men he saved that day, Kain Schilling, was present for the ceremony.
White, who works as an investment analyst for a bank in Charlotte, N.C., became the seventh living veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to receive the nation's highest military honor.
"When Kyle walks into the office every day, people see a man in a suit headed to work," Obama said. But, he said, six years later White "can still see the images and hear the sounds of that battle."
"Every day, he wakes up thinking about his battle buddies. And if you look closely at that man in the suit on his way to work, you'll notice the piece of war that he carries with him, tucked under his shirt sleeve: a stainless steel bracelet around his wrist, etched with the names of his six fallen comrades, who will always be with him."
"Their sacrifice motivates me, he says, to be the best I can be," Obama said.
The president read off the names of the six Americans who died: Sgt. Phillip Bocks, Capt. Matthew C. Ferrara, Spc. Joseph M. Lancour, Sgt. Jeffery S. Mersman, Cpl. Lester G. Roque, and White's best friend, Cpl. Sean K.A. Langevin.