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Retired U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. White, 82, holds a simulated 120mm tank round at the 4th Tank Battalion command post during a visit to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sunday. 4th Tanks invited White aboard the Combat Center because they wanted to honor his last wish as a former tanker. (U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Natalia Cuevas)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Natalia Cuevas

4th Tanks fulfills retired tanker’s wish

9 Apr 2017 | Lance Cpl. Natalia Cuevas Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Marines of 4th Tank Battalion invited 82-year-old retired Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. White of San Diego aboard the Combat Center, Sunday, to fulfill his wish of hugging a tank.

“I really appreciate them letting me come up here and watch the tanks fire,” White said. “I would have loved to drive one, but at least I got to hug a tank again.”

White served in the Marine Corps for 17 years. Although he originally joined to be a tanker, he was made a tank commander. White didn’t like the paperwork associated with the job so he transitioned to ammunition hauler. Even after switching his military occupational specialty, White’s heart remained with tanks. After retirement White’s last wish was to hug a tank.

“I invited Mr. and Mrs. White to Range 500 because Marines like him paved the way for guys like me,” said Capt. Christopher J. Silva, inspector-instructor, Company D, 4th Tank Battalion. “I wanted Mr. White to see his legacy continue with our young Marines.”

During the visit, Marines with 4th Tanks demonstrated the firing capabilities of the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank for the Whites. Although he liked the improvements, White expressed nostalgia for the old technology, saying back in his day they didn’t have the fancy computers and gadgets inside today’s tanks.

At the conclusion of his visit, White was gifted a plaque naming him an honorary member of Company D, 4th Tank Battalion.

“It was truly an honor sharing our iron monster with Mr. White and his family,” Silva said. “I know the Marines appreciated him spending his valuable time with us at the range and I hope we made our fellow tanker proud.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms