On June 19th, 2014, President Obama awarded US Marine William Kyle Carpenter the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Afghanistan four years ago, was the youngest person ever to have the received this award. The Medal of Honor itself is the greatest possible military honor for US soldiers and is only granted when the recipient has engaged in a personal act of great valor that far exceeds their call of duty. Only the President can award the Medal of Honor, and historically fewer than 3500 soldiers have received it.

     Kyle Carpenter was born in October of 1989 in Jackson, Mississippi. When he was nineteen years old he enlisted in the Marines’ delayed entry program, graduating the following July at Parris Island in South Carolina. He went on to receive further training at Camp Geiger’s School of Infantry, also located in South Carolina, before being sent to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province in November of 2009 as part of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. There he served as a SAW, or Squad Automatic Weapon Gunner.

     In July of 2010 by-now Corporal Carpenter was sent to Marjah in Helmand Province to fight the Taliban. The Marines there had there own names for three small Afghan villages in the area, Shady, Shadier, and Shadiest. It was in Shadier that the events took place that eventually resulted in Chapman receiving the Medal of Honor. On the 21st of November, 2010, Carpenter was gravely wounded by a Taliban grenade in the village. The investigation that followed determined that Carpenter had been wounded by diving in front of the grenade to shield a fellow Marine, Nick Eufrazio, from its impact while the two were stationed at a rooftop security post.

     According to the investigation, the two were concealed from enemies by sandbags stacked three or four high on the roof. Taliban fighters threw three grenades at the post. One injured a US soldier and a second failed to detonate. The third one landed on the roof. Carpenter immediately positioned himself between the grenade and Eufrazio. Both were badly wounded, but Carpenter was catastrophically injured. Besides suffering a collapsed lung and a depressed skull, he lost a third of his jaw and was blinded in one eye. After his evacuation he received brain surgery, and was then flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he remained until his retirement.

     During an interview with Marine Corps Times in 2012, Lieutenant Colonel James Fullwood, who had been Carpenter’s battalion commander at the time of the attack, stated that the Marines were still trying to figure out exactly what happened, telling the interviewer, “the actions that happened on that roof are definitely a matter of interest. We’ve never, from that day until now, stopped trying to uncover what took place, whether it be for reasons of identifying someone who deserves to be recognized with an award or to understand more about the events that unfolded.”

     The following year, South Carolina’s legislature agreed to a resolution affirming the service of the young hero, stating that he had “suffered catastrophic wounds in the cause of freedom” and had “shown himself worthy of the name Marine. Carpenter retired from active service in 2013 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in physical education at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, maintaining a near-perfect G.P.A. According to his own words, he is “a normal college kid that has been through a lot and is just trying to live life to the fullest and figure everything out.”

Thomas Davis – NEWSslinger Contributor