TWENTYNINE PALMS, Califs -- On the 1st Tank Battalion ramp, a special moment is being shared. A man walks carefully, but assuredly ascends the ramp. He’s moving toward a tank. When he arrives, he is enthusiastically greeted by Marines. Then he stands there for a moment, eyes glistening, no doubt replaying old memories in his mind.
Marine veteran Kenneth R. White, native of San Diego, Calif., visited 1st Tanks, Dec. 22, 2014 to fulfill a final wish.
White served 17 years as a tanker for 4th Tank battalion. He is nearly 80 years old and suffers from stage 5 kidney failure and other serious medical issues. White’s final wish was simply to be able to hug a tank.
“He’s just like a kid at Christmas,” said Carol White, spouse, native of San Diego. “It’s just absolutely amazing to see how much life he’s put back in himself. He’s getting really close to the end of his life but he’ll be at peace now.”
White and his family arrived at the 1st Tanks ramp in the early morning. At the ramp, White was treated to a tour of the M1A1 Abrams and shown some of the newer functionalities. He was also shown the Advance Gunnery Training Simulator and his tour concluded with a visit to a Sherman Tank.
“All my life, when I was a little boy growing up, I wanted to be a tanker,” White said. “ I used to watch the Tanks at Camp Elliott, Calif. I can’t believe they did all this for me. I can die in peace now, because I got to hug a tank.”
The bond shared between a Tanker and his vehicle is unique, and one that many may not understand.
“We’re such a small community, and the relationship we have with our vehicles is a special one,” said Gunnery Sgt. Paul E. Acevedo, battalion master gunner, native of Pomona, Calif. “There’s very few of us around and the way the Marine Corps is downsizing, tankers are getting smaller and smaller by the day. To be able to help him fulfill his dream of coming out here to see a tank again [was great.]”