Sgt. Kevin White; Photo courtesy: myspace
Sgt. Kevin White; Photo courtesy: myspace
WESTFIELD, NY -The body of Army Sgt. Kevin White was brought to his hometown of Westfield Wednesday afternoon. The Chautauqua County native was killed in Afghanistan on May 2nd.
Sgt. White's remains arrived at the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown around 2 PM. A procession led by the Patriot Guard then escorted a hearse carrying Sgt. White's remains through several Chautauqua County communities, on its way to Westfield, where crowds lined Main Street as the procession passed.
Among those on hand was Josh Sorrento, who is medically retired from the Army after having been wounded by a sniper in Iraq.
Sorrento, who had also attained the rank of Sergeant, had a deeply personal connection to his fallen comrade dating back from when they grew up together.
"We decided about half way through our senior year of high school that we would enlist in the Army together, and a couple of weeks out of school we went through basic training together," Sorrento recalled.
The two vowed to look out for each other, and Sorrento also remembered how much White's encouragement meant to him when he was wounded.
"Just to have a fellow soldier and a fellow friend I grew up with able to actually connect with me on so many levels that no one else could, was really special to me," Sorrento told WGRZ-TV.
It was apparent as he stood in the sun on a beautiful spring day, recalling the pair's plan to go motorcycle riding when White completed his tour, that the realization that his buddy would not be coming home alive was heart breaking to Sorrento.
"It's been a rough few days...It's crazy how in the blink of an eye your life can be gone. I mean, you're not promised a tomorrow...there's men and women over there right now getting into firefights and dealing with tremendous traumatic incidents every day," he said.
As he looked at the crowds lining the street, many waving American flags, Sorrento remarked, "you always have to have that thought in your mind and in your heart that freedom isn't free...and it's extremely heart warming that so many people have come together to celebrate his life and to honor him as it should be done."
The procession concluded at a funeral home where White's flag draped coffin was carried up the front steps and inside by a military escort.
"He was doing what he loved and you can do nothing but respect that. He fought for our freedom like so many other soldiers, and unfortunately he gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country," Sorrento said.
The community can pay their respects from 2-5 PM and 7-9 PM Thursday at the First Baptist Church on Union St. in Westfield. That's where funeral services will be held on Friday at 11 AM.
Westfield Academy and Central School, where Kevin was a graduate, will be closed on Friday so any staff or students who would like to attend the service may do so.
Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all flags on state government buildings to fly at half-staff Monday to honor the service and sacrifice of Staff Sergeant White .
Family members say White, 22, was killed last Monday while on patrol in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device.
White's father Paul tells 2 On Your Side the family got the news the next morning.
White is a 2006 graduate of Westfield Academy and Central Schools. The principal, who knew Kevin well, described him as a quiet student who was loyal to both his family and friends.
Principal Ivana Hite said it was Kevin's incredible love for his country that caused him to enter the military. She said news of Kevin's death hit hard in the small town.
"It was a real tragic loss for us," Hite said. "Our hearts are broken. The staff and the students that knew him... are taking this very hard right now."
White served a tour of duty in Iraq and had only been in Afghanistan about two months when he was killed.
His death came just hours after al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces. Hite said the celebration surrounding bin Laden's demise was quickly replaced by the sadness of losing a hometown hero.
Kevin's mother Patricia works at the school and sent an email to her colleagues Monday asking that they continue to pray for her son and his platoon, with no idea of knowing that her son would pay the ultimate price that very day.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher.
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