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U.S. Marine Corps grants veteran's final wish to hug a tank

Marine veteran Kenneth R. White, now nearly 80-years-old, wanted nothing more than to hug a tank before he dies, and the U.S. Marine Corps saw to it.

By Fred Lambert
U.S. Marine Corps grants veteran's final wish to hug a tank
Marine veteran and former tanker Kenneth White hugs a tank at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. The Marine Corps granted White's final wish to do so. Photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo, U.S. Marine Corps

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., Jan. 4 (UPI) -- A nearly 80-year-old Marine veteran suffering from serious medical issues was granted his final wish by the U.S. Marine Corps -- to hug a tank.

Kenneth R. White served 17 years as a tanker for 4th Tank battalion, according to the Marine Corps. A San Diego native who now lives in Las Vegas, White suffers from stage five kidney failure and other physical problems. His final wish was to hug one of the machines he worked with for so many years.

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On December 22, 2014, the 1st Tank Battalion at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms granted White's request, taking the veteran on a tour of battle simulators and features on the M1 Abrams -- a modern battle tank vastly different from the Shermans, Pershings and M48 Pattons with which White worked.

White was photographed hugging one of the M1 Abrams, and the tour ended when he was brought to a Sherman tank. Using a walker and breathing with the help of an oxygen tank, White stood in silence before the armored vehicle, the Military Times reports.

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"All my life, when I was a little boy growing up, I wanted to be a tanker," White said, according to the Marine Corps. "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."

Gunnery Sgt. Paul Acevedo, a Marine with 1st Tank Battalion, said he could relate to White's sentiment.

"It's that moment to be around the vehicle, just to lay your hand on it, that cold steel right in front of you, knowing that it's alive somehow — that's what it was," Acevedo told the Military Times.

"It's just absolutely amazing to see how much life he's put back in himself," Carol White said of her husband. "He's getting really close to the end of his life but he'll be at peace now."

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