FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. — The White House announced May 19 that Marine veteran Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter will receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Carpenter will receive the medal from President Barack Obama, June 19. He will be the eighth living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
On Nov. 21, 2010, Taliban insurgents initiated an attack on Carpenter’s squad, part of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. Carpenter, the squad automatic rifleman for his fire team, and Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio were holding a rooftop security position when a hand grenade was thrown their way. Without hesitation, Carpenter reacted, rushing toward the grenade in an attempt to shield his brother-in-arms from its blast.
The grenade detonated with Carpenter’s body taking the majority of the blast. Carpenter lay on the rooftop, barely clinging to life; his fellow Marine also severely wounded.
A selfless action and a hellish tragedy happened in the blink of an eye, leaving both Carpenter and Eufrazio with painstaking recoveries.
Carpenter suffered severe injuries from the blast. Much of his jaw was rebuilt and he lost his right eye; he sustained countless shattered bones throughout his body and a collapsed right lung.
He endured a strenuous recovery process at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. After two and a half years, Carpenter was medically retired from the Marine Corps on July 30, 2013.
“I look back and I’m actually very appreciative I had those two and a half years because those years put things in perspective more than a whole lifetime of things could if I wasn’t there,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter’s mind and emotions were not left unscarred either. The hardest part was dealing with letting others help, he said.
“Going from toting a machinegun in Afghanistan … to using a bed pan, and I can’t even put my own socks on — that was hard to kind of suck it up,” Carpenter said.
Although the recovery process seemed endless and small tasks required assistance, Carpenter overcame the odds and has a new outlook on life from the entire tragedy, he said. He is grateful for all the help and support he received.
“I’ve just been very fortunate that I’ve had not only my Family, but friends, Marines and the community of South Carolina,” Carpenter said. “Early on in my recovery, the entire United States seemed to be supportive. Letters flooded in from all over the place, so from the second I woke up in the hospital, I’ve always had a great team and great people. I’ve been very fortunate.”
Even with such a great honor bestowed on him, he remains humble.
“As many firefights and instances where there’s been opportunity, Marines have stepped up to the plate — not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but since the beginning of our country,” Carpenter said. “So I truly feel like I’m on an even playing field.”
Carpenter was born in Flowood, Mississippi, but resides in South Carolina. He is now a full-time student at the University of South Carolina, but does miss the Marine Corps, he said.
Looking back at his time in the Corps, Carpenter’s fondest memories are being deployed with his fellow Marines in Afghanistan. To him, nothing will compare to months without a shower, sleeping in the dirt and being with 50 of his best friends.
“If I look at it that way, I’m very thankful for Afghanistan and it really means a lot to me,” Carpenter said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Carpenter’s awards include the Purple Heart Medal, the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Unit Commendation Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one bronze star, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal International Security Assistance Force, and a Rifle Sharpshooter Badge.