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Erwin native killed while serving in Afghanistan

A 24-year-old Erwin native was killed in Afghanistan Wednesday when a NATO helicopter was shot down by Taliban insurgents.
Family members confirmed on Thursday that Benjamin Daniel White, 24, was one of the four American servicemen killed. Reports say insurgents shot the helicopter with two rockets while the NATO helicopter was in the midst of an operation to rescue other wounded soldiers.
Ben’s grandfather, Curtis White, spoke to The Erwin Record from his home off White Street in Rock Creek on Thursday and through tears he told of how his grandson loved being a member of the United States Air Force.
“He loved the Air Force,” Curtis said. “He loved his work.”
The soldier’s father and stepmother, Anthony “Tony” and Jennifer White, live next door to Curtis’ home in Rock Creek. Ben’s mother, Brenda, is a New York resident.
On Wednesday, Curtis heard the report of a helicopter being shot down from the national news and a sickening feeling came over him.
“It hit me that it was him,” Curtis said. “I just had that feeling all day.”
Hours later, a representative from the Air Force, local law enforcement and a preacher arrived at White Street and Curtis knew instantly why they were there.
He called his son, Tony, and told him to come home from work to speak to the Air Force representative. On Thursday, immediate family members traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where the four soldiers will be flown.
Although Curtis said Ben knew his duty was dangerous, his grandfather said Ben always looked out for others, as part of his duties as a medic, soldier and friend.
“In fact, he told his daddy not to pray for him but to pray for the Marines,” Curtis said, noting that Ben was looking out for another branch of soldiers.
Tears came to Curtis as he remembered one of the last times he spoke to Ben.
“I said, ‘God be with you, Ben,'” he recalled. “Ben said, ‘God is with me.'”
Local Unicoi County authorities are working to organize a tribute to White. Details of the tribute and instructions for how the citizens can become involved will be listed on The Erwin Record’s web site at erwinrecord.net. Information for White’s arrangements will also be published once available.