Lt. Comdr. White tells Kiwanians

‘Chattanooga 5’ sacrifice was significant

By SARALYN NORKUS saralyn.norkus@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 4/9/17

His name and story will forever be remembered in Southeast Tennessee, and throughout the United States.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim White, commander of the Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga, …

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Lt. Comdr. White tells Kiwanians

‘Chattanooga 5’ sacrifice was significant

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His name and story will forever be remembered in Southeast Tennessee, and throughout the United States.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim White, commander of the Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga, was the recent special guest at the Cleveland Kiwanis Club. White shared his first person account of the July 16, 2015, shooting that left four Marines and a Navy sailor dead.

According to White, that infamous day started out a day unlike any other.

“I normally do not have vivid dreams, but right before I woke up on July 16, I had a very vivid dream where I was talking with a man who was holding a weapon with a crowd behind him who were also holding weapons. In my dream, I told him, “You’re an American, and I’m an American so we’re on the same team. We should be able work through our differences instead of trying to kill each other, right?” He said “No,” and he was going to try to kill me and my family,” he described.

Despite the start to his day, White had no inkling of what was to transpire at 10:55 a.m.

“As I worked at my desk that morning, I continued to think about the freedoms we value so much. I also went through different scenarios of ways that we could be attacked and the best ways to respond. I credit my mental practice to my background as a pilot — particularly a helicopter pilot because we’re always expecting the worst,” he said.

“Then, at about 10:55, I heard the terrorist’s car crash through the gate and screech to a halt. I initially thought those sounds were from a car wreck on one of the nearby streets; but, when I got up from my desk to look out of the window and investigate, I was confronted by three of my sailors running into my office to inform me that ‘someone just crashed through the gate! What do we do?’ I knew for sure that this was not a normal day.”

After telling them to call the police, White retrieved his gun. As he stood up, he saw the terrorist running down the sidewalk with an assault rifle. The attacker had a vest loaded with extra magazines, and what White thought could have been explosives.

“I raised my weapon and fired at him through my window as rapidly as I could, until he was out of view. Immediately following my shots, I heard him shooting.”

White added that compared to his pistol, the terrorist’s weapon sounded like a cannon.

Having already nearly emptied his own magazine, he considered what his next actions should be — engage the terrorist again or exit through his window for help.

“I knew that either of my debated actions could result in my being shot and possibly killed, but I was completely ready to die. I knew that the Lord would take care of my wife and children and was looking forward to possibly being in the presence of the Lord soon — thinking, ‘Is this the day?’”

White and his wife, Franicia, have seven children. At the time of the attack, she was pregnant with the seventh.

After exiting through his window, White ran up to the front gate, where he encountered the first responding Chattanooga Police Department officer.

Telling the story of the 2015 incident is still difficult for White, but he feels it is an important one to continue sharing.

“I think it’s healing to talk about it. One of the things I want to make sure never happens is that we don’t forget about the sacrifice that the ‘Chattanooga 5’ made and their families, who continue to make that sacrifice. Their sacrifice is significant,” he declared.

“The terrorist mortally wounded Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Randall Smith, husband and father of three young girls and faithful sailor, inside the building, then went to the other side of the building and exited by the motorpool where he murdered Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, a 20-year Marine Corps decorated combat veteran, Staff Sergeant David Wyatt, also a decorated combat veteran, husband and father of two children, Sergeant Carson Holmquist, husband to an expectant mother, and Lance Corporal Skip Wells, a brand-new Marine at 21 years of age.”

White’s message transitioned to one of freedom and one that encouraged the healing of the division throughout this country.

“Have you ever thought about the purpose of our freedoms? Are we simply free so that we can selfishly pursue the ‘American Dream?’ No, our freedoms, that have been bought and maintained through the shedding of blood, are precious and way too valuable to be used simply for the satisfying of our own selfish individual desires.”

White applauded the Kiwanians for how they cared for their fellow man, especially their mission to serve the children of Cleveland.

He then added Americans must “come together,” despite their differences.

“Americans must come together for the common good of our communities, our counties, our states, and our nation. [If we don’t] then the consequences that we face are severe. Jesus said in Matthew 12:25, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation (waste, ruin) and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.’ We are all unique. We all have something that we can bring to the table.”

White stressed we are all on the same team and have a duty to honor the sacrifice of those who have given their lives to protect us and make us free.

He went on to explain that conflict and divisions can be conquered with love.

“Gunny Sullivan gave his life trying to save his fellow Marines. Staff Sergeant Wyatt died as he tried to get Gunny Sullivan to safety. They both serve as very real examples of the greatest love that we can have. In John 15:13, Jesus Christ, who gave His life so that we may be right with God, said this: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,’” White said.

“Make no mistake, we have examples all around us of people laying down their lives for their friends, for their families, for their communities, and for their country. Will we do that too? Can we model that and plant that seed in the lives of those we meet, so that maybe they too will do the same?”

For White, one of the ways that the community can come together to honor the sacrifices made by those in the armed forces is by celebrating at the Armed Forces Day parade in Chattanooga, which is coming up on May 5. He added the Chattanooga parade is the longest consecutively held AFD parade in the country and that this year’s will be the 68th consecutive parade.

“The honored service this year is the U.S. Air Force. Our reviewing officer/guest speaker is Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr. from the Air Force Acquisition department. The parade marshals will be Jack Rolfson, a World War II B-17 pilot, and Eugene Parrott, a Korean War fighter pilot,” White detailed.

The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Market Street, with a luncheon following at noon in the Chattanooga Convention Center. Tickets for the luncheon must be purchased in advance, and service members in uniform may attend the luncheon free of charge.

More information can be found at http://chattareaveterans.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/chattafparade.

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