Today is MoH recipient Kyle Carpenter's Alive Day

Julia LeDoux
November 20, 2019 - 2:33 pm
President of the United States, Barrack H. Obama places the Medal of Honor around retired U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter's neck, inside the East Wing of the White House, June 19, 2014.

Photo by Cpl. Michael Guinto

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Ten years ago today, Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter threw himself on a grenade that had been thrown on the roof of a building in Afghanistan, saving the life of a fellow Marine.  

For that action, Carpenter received the Medal of Honor. He tells the story of that fateful day and his three-year-long recovery in his recently released memoir, “You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For.”

9 years ago today, at almost this exact hour, I felt myself bleeding out on hot dusty rooftop in Afghanistan and what I thought were my final moments on this earth. Today, and everyday, I am forever grateful that I woke up to this epic second chance....my bonus round at life. Live and love your life in a way so that when your final moments do come all you need is a peaceful prayer and not wishing for more time. To those who saved me, picked me up when I have stumbled, loved, supported and healed me I thank you from the bottom of my heart. My only hope is to live a life that makes you proud. Happy alive day to me!

A post shared by Kyle Carpenter (@chiksdigscars) on

“The hardest part of my entire three-year recovery has been knowing that my parents, my brothers, were suffering through this burden of injury and recovery, something I volunteered for that they didn’t ask for,” he said.

As a kid, Carpenter insisted that his dad draw the Superman logo on his chest with an indelible marker.

“I guess that helped me jump a little higher on my bike ramps and a little faster on my rollerblades,” he said.

Carpenter said he feels the same way he did as a kid as a 30-year-old.

“I’ve always been energetic, loved life and have always been easily amused by things,” he said. “I’ve always accepted challenge.”

That love of a challenge led Carpenter to the Marine Corps. He signed up in 2009 and soon found himself deployed to Afghanistan. 

Carpenter
Photo courtesy of Kyle Carpenter

“The military is a path of the unknown,” he said. “I wasn’t in denial about the risk.”

Nov. 21, 2010, was just like any other day, Carpenter said.

“It still doesn’t get any less crazy or surreal to think about, even though it happened to me,” he said.

Carpenter instinctively threw himself at a grenade.  Realizing the extent of his injuries, Carpenter thought of his family, particularly his mom, and said a prayer for forgiveness.

“A tiredness and exhaustion completely and quickly consumed every fiber of my being,” he said. “I closed my eyes for what I thought would be the last time on this earth.”

Five weeks later, Carpenter woke up at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The first thing he saw was the Christmas stockings his mom had hung on the room of his wall.   

During his recovery which involved dozens of surgeries, Carpenter said he felt pressure to be strong emotionally for everyone around him. He called his recovery a family effort.

“For everyone in the bed, there’s a whole family,” he said.

In his book, Carpenter shares some of the wisdom he’s gained on his road to recovery in chapters titled, “You are more than your ribbon rack or resume.” 

U.S. Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter observes his portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2015. Carpenter is the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient.
DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen

“You wake up, you have this life, this opportunity,” he said. “Take it, make the most of it.” 

Another message of Carpenter’s book is that it’s okay to fail.

“You have to experience and take defeat in any and all aspects of life so you can be better and stronger,” he said.

Carpenter remains the nation’s youngest living recipient of the Medal of Honor.   

 

Carrying the weight of the Medal of Honor

Reach Julia LeDoux: Julia@connectingvets.com

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