By Thom Wilborn
Kevin White, left, with his wife, Juliane, and infant son, Liam. Looking on are Juliane’s parents, O.T. and Ann Green.
Army infantryman Kevin White was on another patrol of Baghdad, weaving through the sometimes narrow streets always on alert for hidden insurgents determined to take out his vehicle and the 82nd Airborne troopers inside.
The daylight ambush occurred April 12, 2007—four months into his second combat tour. Sgt. White was driving the Humvee when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded into the gun turret above him, sending shrapnel throughout the interior of the vehicle. White suffered head, shoulder and lung injuries, some loss of vision in his right eye, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Two other soldiers in the vehicle were injured, but not as seriously as White.
“I was medevaced immediately into surgery,” White said. “Later I was sent to Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, N.C., for additional medical care. My recovery took about five months.”
Medically retired by the Army, one of White’s first acts was to consult with the DAV about his disability claim with the VA. “My father-in-law, O.T. Green, is a Disabled American Veteran. He gave me a membership to DAV for Christmas, so I was taken care of pretty quick.” Green, a Vietnam veteran, served in the Navy from 1962 to 1968 then the Army from 1969 to 1971.
“It is so uplifting to know that veterans of previous eras are assisting our newest generation in getting our professional expertise,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski. “The previous generations have been through the VA disability claim process, and they know that we are veterans helping veterans in its finest sense.”
Recovering from his injuries was difficult for White, 29. “It was hard not being able to do everything I used to do,” he said. “My shoulder is much weaker now. I can’t reach to the top shelf of the pantry. I find using a computer is more difficult now because of the TBI.”
While his recovery from TBI has improved, White still suffers from memory lapses and other difficulties. “I have a 14-month-old son, Liam. It’s hard to pick him up and play with him. Sometimes my wife, Juliane, has to do that,” he said.
“It gets me down,” said White. “I’ll never be able to play catch with my son. I’ll never be able to throw a baseball to him.”
“Our service members have suffered greatly on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said National Service Director Garry Augustine. “We enthusiastically welcome them all home, and our National Service Officers stand ready to offer them the assistance and expertise they need to proceed with a VA disability claim.”
White praises Fort Harrison, Mont., National Service Office Supervisor Kevin Grantier for getting his claim processed quickly. “I was very happy with DAV’s service. I was frustrated with the VA losing my records.”
White was granted service connection for his disabilities in March 2009, but Grantier helped him file an appeal for an increased rating, which was granted in July 2011.
“Kevin knew he had benefits coming, and he wanted the best professional representation,” said Grantier. “He just needed help, especially because of the TBI. He found it difficult to keep up with the paperwork and wanted someone to serve as his big brother and to look over his shoulder.
“When White got his first rating, he knew it wasn’t
correct,” said Grantier. “We felt he wasn’t getting the disability rating he earned in Iraq. We filed an appeal and worked with the VA’s decision review officer to get the disability level he deserved.”
“Kevin White received the compensation and health care benefits he earned in Iraq,” said Jesinoski. “We are glad that he turned to the DAV for our assistance and that we have served him well.”
“I think it would have been more difficult and more frustrating to have handled the claim myself,” White said. “DAV already knew how to deal with the details. NSO Grantier knew the rules and regulations in processing and advancing the claim.
“Kevin Grantier went out of his way to help me,” White said. “I was kept informed, and he explained the process a lot better than the VA. I’m happy the DAV was there to help me.
“The DAV cared about me, even though I’m walking wounded,” White said. “DAV saw to it that I was treated fairly and that the promise to me was kept.”
“White’s the kind of man that makes you want to come back the next day to help someone else. It warms my heart when veterans are getting the correct decisions and the correct ratings for what they’ve done to serve our country. He just wanted to make sure he received the benefits to take care of himself and future benefits for his wife and son,” Grantier said.
“Working with the veterans I serve makes the hard work and long hours magically evaporate,” said Grantier. “It tells you that you are doing the right job. And it’s not even a job for me after more than 15 years. I am part of the DAV team. I have brothers and sisters all across the nation doing the same thing. It sure makes it easy to get up and come to work in the morning.”
Kevin White died at the VA Hospital following surgery on April 1, 2012.