by Frances Seybold
U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico
June 3, 2018
Medal of Honor recipient Marine veteran Cpl. Kyle Carpenter spoke about his road to recovery after the near fatal grenade blast he received during Operation Enduring Freedom in Marjah, Afghanistan along with the reputation of the Marines; the importance of commitment, service, and sacrifice to the nation ... during the Heroes Among Us event at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Carpenter believes he could not possibly sum up the historic battle of Marjah, nor sum up the incredible legacy of the United States Marine Corps. But, he was comforted by the fact that he did not need to ... as many in the Medal of Honor Theater, where he stood and told his story, were past or current service members.
He was among his peers, who also felt the incredible heat of 110 degree days and the cool waters of running canals that would seep into their boots. He was also among his peers who felt the weight of a 100 pounds of gear, ammo and water on their backs.
Carpenter found comfort in speaking with men and women who already knew the weight of the Marines’ responsibility of forever being the first line of defense for the nation and its freedoms.
Carpenter emphasized the fact that his presence remained an example to others even after his Marine service ended, and he takes seriously the weight the Medal of Honor has placed on him and feels the responsibility to shine a light on the representation of sacrifice to anyone willing to listen.
Carpenter, the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient, received the highest medal of valor from former President of the United States Barack Obama, after he threw himself in front of a live enemy hand grenade to protect a fellow Marine.
As a result, Carpenter suffered massive injuries to his body, including severe damage to his face and right arm. The injuries to his face resulted in the loss of his right eye.
As he stood in front of the audience at NMMC he reminisced about the events that transpired eight years ago.
As he spoke he also passed around his Medal of Honor to the audience so they could feel the gravity of his words as he painted a vivid picture of sacrifice.
In great detail Carpenter relived the events of the grenade blast, describing the feeling of warm water being poured onto his body, but in turn blood pouring from his body.
He described the thought that rushed through his head about his mother sitting at home, finding out her boy did not return home in one piece.
Carpenter described his void of being as he blacked out in Marjah and did not wake up until five weeks into his treatment at Walter Reed. He was unsure of where he was or the injuries he had sustained.
Carpenter said it turned out that his injuries were so severe he died three times during his multitude of surgeries.
But, his will to live proved strong. After three years he would prove to be thankful for the medical team at Walter Reed which stood over him and worked tirelessly to help him live.
“We all have our battles,” Carpenter said explaining his physical, mental and spiritual battles after his injuries.
He believes where the Marine Corps trained him to fight and be relentless in the face of battle, nothing could have prepared him for the fight he would experience after being injured in battle.
He explained that as a Marine you know when you go into the combat zone there are sacrifices you are going to have to make.
As he looked back, this was the sacrifice he wanted his mother to accept when he joined the Marine Corps.
Nothing could keep Carpenter from being a United States Marine because his heart to volunteer out-weighed his fear of sacrifice. Carpenter wanted to volunteer regardless of the hundreds of things it could cost him, but he felt there were more reasons to serve, including what he could provide to others.
“The heart of a volunteer—there aren’t too many things stronger than that,” Carpenter said. “Truly be proud of what you’ve done and the time you served whether it was one day or 20 years, be appreciative for that opportunity you have earned.”
He told past, present and future service members by raising their right hand, they are expressing the will to write a blank check to the government, which may require the sacrifice of their life if needed.
“The United States Marine is a beacon of hope for dark places and suffering people all around the world,” Carpenter said. “Many gave the ultimate sacrifice; many gave limbs to help people live lives free of oppression and hardship and replaced it with democracy and prosperity.”
Carpenter considers himself proud and extremely honored to have stood among men and women who vowed to stand as an example of what is best for the world.
“Never forget when no one else would, you raised your right hand and sacrificed and became a part of this nation’s history and Marine Corps legacy,” Carpenter said. “There are people there who are going through their life and one of their biggest regrets is not serving when they could have.”
Carpenter considers himself privileged to have a platform to speak about his experience in the Marines and to have received the Medal of Honor.
However, he also acknowledges that behind his Medal of Honor are men and women who died in service to their nation who never would receive such recognition.
For him the weight of his Medal of Honor is a vow of remembrance to honor the legacy of these men and women and to honor their memory by living his life with purpose.
After Carpenter medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2013, he attended the University of South Carolina in Columbia and earned a degree in international relations.
He is now in the process of applying to receive his master’s degree in homeland security to continue his service to the nation.
The Heroes Among Us event was organized to inform veterans and active duty service members about the resources available to them and to offer a sneak peak of the galleries opening inside the museum at the end of 2018.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps is located off of Jefferson Davis Highway near the main gate of Marine Corps Base Quantico. Admission and parking are free.