Now, Kyle and I have actually met before. During his long recovery at Walter Reed, he and some of our other wounded warriors came to the White House to celebrate the World Series champion, the St. Louis Cardinals. Some of you might be aware, I am a White Sox fan. (Laughter.) Kyle likes the Braves. So it was a tough day for both of us. (Laughter.)
But after the ceremony, Michelle and I had the chance to meet Kyle. And at the time, he was still undergoing surgeries. But he was up and he was walking, and he was working his way toward being independent again, towards the man you see here today. And, Kyle, the main message we want to send is, welcome back. We are so proud to have you here.
We just spent some time not just with Kyle, but also with his wonderful family. And anybody who has had a chance to get to know this young man knows you’re not going to get a better example of what you want in an American or a Marine. Despite all the attention, he’s still the same humble guy from Gilbert, South Carolina, population of about 600 -- I guess today it’s only population 590-something. (Laughter.)
These days he’s also at the University of South Carolina, “just a normal college student,” he says, cheering for the Gamecocks. You’ll notice that Kyle doesn’t hide his scars; he’s proud of them, and the service that they represent. And, now, he tells me this, and so I’m just quoting him -- he says, “the girls definitely like them.” (Laughter.) So he’s kind of -- he’s working an angle on this thing. (Laughter.) I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to say that in front of mom. (Laughter.) But there’s a quote there.
In addition to our many distinguished guests, I want to welcome those who made this man the Marine that he is -- Kyle’s father, Jim; Kyle’s lovely mom, Robin; and his brothers, Price, and Peyton, one of whom is going to be joining Kyle at South Carolina, another Gamecock, and then we’ve got one who’s going to be at The Citadel. We also have Kyle’s Marine brothers who served with him in Afghanistan and through his recovery. And I also want to welcome the members of the Medal of Honor Society, whose ranks Kyle joins today.
Kyle and his fellow Marines served during the surge of forces that I ordered to Afghanistan early in my presidency. Their mission was to drive the Taliban out of their strongholds, protect the Afghan people and give them a chance to reclaim their communities.
Kyle and his platoon were in Helmand province in Marja, pushing their way across open fields and muddy canals, bearing their heavy packs even as it could heat up to 115 degrees. In one small village, they turned a dusty compound into their base. The insurgents nearby gave their answer with sniper fire, and automatic weapon fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.