President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor on Thursday to Marine Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, celebrating the veteran’s heroism and the modern medical miracle it took to keep him alive after he was rocked with a grenade blast while attempting to shield a fellow Marine from harm.
Carpenter, 24, received the award in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, flanked by his family and dozens of Marines from his unit. He is credited with deliberately lunging at a hand grenade after an insurgent tossed it at him and another Marine, Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio, while they manned a rooftop security post in a small, dusty compound in Marjah, Afghanistan.
Carpenter still bears the scars of that Nov. 21, 2010, incident, but has made a remarkable recovery. He has run a marathon, sky-dived and completed a mud-run competition since being injured, the president noted, and pushed through physical therapy and surgeries to retire medically and attend the University of South Carolina.
“You’ll notice that Kyle doesn’t hide his scars. He’s proud of them and the service they represent,” Obama said. In a lighter moment, he added: “And, now, he tells me this, and I’m just quoting him: He says the girls like it. So he’s working an angle on this thing. I wasn’t sure I was supposed to say that in front of Mom.”
Carpenter is the second living Marine to receive the nation’s highest award for valor in combat since the Vietnam War. Fourteen other U.S. service members have received it for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
After the ceremony, Carpenter told media at the White House that he was honored and humbled to accept the Medal of Honor, but was doing so “with a heavy heart.”