Cpl. Kyle Carpenter

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Corporal William Kyle Carpenter, a  rifleman who shielded a fellow Marine from a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2010, received the Medal of Honor from President Obama on June 19, 2014.

"Corporal William Kyle Carpenter should not be alive today," Mr. Obama said during the ceremony. "But we are here because this man, this United States Marine, faced down that terrible explosive power, that unforgiving force, with his own body - willingly and deliberately - to protect a fellow Marine."

He is the 8th living recipient of the medal for service in Afghanistan or Iraq. The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military honor.

In his platoon's second day of heavy fighting with the Taliban, Corporal Carpenter, then a lance corporal, was stationed on top of a mud hut, alongside Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio, when a grenade landed on the rooftop. Corporal Carpenter leapt between the explosive and his fellow Marine, absorbing the blast with his body.

Sgt. Jared Lilly, a lance corporal in Corporal Carpenter's platoon, was one of the first Marines on the scene after the grenade detonated. "When I got to Kyle, he was face down, so I grabbed his arm to try and roll him over and instantly realized his arm was broken. Then, I grabbed his flak jacket and he was just dead weight," Sergeant Lilly said. "When we rolled him over, that's when I realized how catastrophic his injuries were."

Several Marines applied pressure and tourniquets to his arms when Corporal Carpenter regained some consciousness.

"I remember my buddies yelling at me, and it sounded like they were far away, and I remember them yelling, 'You're gonna make it, you're gonna make it!' I just kept

trying to tell them that I was going to die," Corporal Carpenter said in an interview last month. "The last thought that I had was,

I made peace with God." Several weeks later, he woke up in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Much of Corporal Carpenter's face was reconstructed during his recovery at the hospital, since the blast blew away "pretty much everything from the eyes down," he said. He lost his right eye. Doctors removed shrapnel from his head and repaired his shattered right arm, which was broken in more than 30 places.

Corporal Eufrazio also suffered serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury that left him unable to speak. He is now recovering at home in Plymouth, Mass.

After the ceremony, Corporal Carpenter said he would wear the medal on behalf of his fellow Marines. "As the president put the Medal of Honor around my neck, I felt the history and the weight of a nation," he said in a brief statement. "I will wear it for those who have been wounded on distant lands who still continue to fight in battle, and through long and difficult days of recovery here at home. And for those who have given it all, I can never express in words what you mean for this nation."

After two and a half years in the hospital, Corporal Carpenter, now 24, was released in July 2013 and he medically retired from the Marines. Three weeks later, he attended his first class at the University of South Carolina, where he is a full-time student and considering a major in psychology. He completed his first marathon last year.

"If any American seeks a model of the strength and resilience that define us as a people, including this newest 9/11 generation, I want you to consider Kyle," Mr. Obama said. "After everything he's been through, he skis, he snowboards, he's jumped from a plane - with a parachute, thankfully."

Carpenter was born here in Flowood, and spent his youth living in Rankin County.  He now resides in South Carolina.

 


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