During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with Marine Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, whose unit came under attack in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 21, 2010.
Kyle Carpenter’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an Automatic Rifleman with Company F, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division (Forward), 1 Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on 21 November 2010.
“Lance Corporal Carpenter was a member of a platoon-sized coalition force, comprised of two reinforced Marine squads partnered with an Afghan National Army squad. The platoon had established Patrol Base Dakota two days earlier in a small village in the Marjah District in order to disrupt enemy activity and provide security for the local Afghan population.
“Lance Corporal Carpenter and a fellow Marine were manning a rooftop security position on the perimeter of Patrol Base Dakota when the enemy initiated a daylight attack with hand grenades, one of which landed inside their sandbagged position.
“Without hesitation, and with complete disregard for his own safety, Lance Corporal Carpenter moved toward the grenade in an attempt to shield his fellow Marine from the deadly blast. When the grenade detonated, his body absorbed the brunt of the blast, severely wounding him, but saving the life of his fellow Marine.
“By his undaunted courage, bold fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of almost certain death, Lance Corporal Carpenter reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
At his White House Medal of Honor ceremony on June 19, 2014, President Barack Obama picked up the story from when the grenade landed near Carpenter:
“Kyle has no memory of what happened next. What we do know is that there on that rooftop he wasn’t ust with a fellow Marine, he was with his best friend. Kyle and Nick had met in training. In Afghanistan they patrolled together, day and night, a friendship forged in fire. Kyle says about Nick, ‘He was my point man, and I loved him like a brother.’
“When the grenade landed, other Marines in the compound looked up and saw it happen. Kyle tried to stand. He lunged forward toward that grenade, and then he disappeared into the blast. Keep in mind, at the time, Kyle was just 21 years old. But in that instant, he fulfilled those words of Scripture: ‘Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.’
“They found Kyle lying face down, directly over the blast area. His helmet was riddled with holes. His gear was melted. Part of his Kevlar vest was blown away. One of the doctors who treated him later said Kyle was ‘literally wounded from the top of his head to his feet.’ …
“Eventually, Kyle woke up after five weeks in a coma. I want you to consider what Kyle has endured just to stand here today — more than two and a half years in the hospital. Grueling rehabilitation. Brain surgery to remove shrapnel from his head. nearly 40 surgeries to repair a collapsed lung, fractured fingers, a shattered right arm broken in more than 30 places, multiple skin grafts. He has a new prosthetic eye, a new jaw, new teeth — and one hell of a smile. …
“Corporal William Kyle Carpenter should not be alive today, but the fact that he is gives us reason to trust that there is indeed a bigger plan. So God bless you, Kyle. God bless all who serve and protect the precious and amazing life that we are blessed with.”
Carpenter writes about his life in You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For. In it, he says, “It’s a journey of more than any single person or experience. It is a journey that has evolved through years of struggle, self-reflection, support, and love. It shows that big battles are accomplished by small victories and that even the smallest of steps completes the grandest of journeys. It is a journey of the human spirit.”