Many American youngsters grow up wanting to be a hero. We watch movies about soldiers going into battle and offering themselves as the ultimate sacrifice to their country, their mission and their comrades in arms. We often fantasize about what we would do if and when the opportunity to do something heroic presented itself. In our fantasies we perform gallantly, saving the world through our actions, and earning the title of hero.
In reality, very few people go on to become the heroes that they admired in movies, books and history. For most people, the opportunity to perform heroic deeds never arises. Even the majority of service members aren’t put in the position to perform heroically. And for some people, the reality of the moment causes our bodies to react differently than we did in our fantasies.
But for retired Marine Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, the way that he performed in combat exceeded any heroic feat that Hollywood writers could dream up.
On November 21, 2010, Carpenter and fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio were assigned to a rooftop post, guarding their patrol base in a small village in Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan.
Taliban forces advanced on the village and lobbed three grenades. One failed to detonate, another injured an Afghan National Army Soldier, and the third landed on the roof where Carpenter and Eufrazio were positioned.
According to Marine Corps’ After Action Reports of the incident, Carpenter threw himself on the grenade to protect Eufrazio from the blast. Both Marines survived the blast. Eurfrazio received a head injury from shrapnel, and Carpenter sustained a skull injury, collapsed right lung, loss of nearly one third of his lower jaw, multiple facial fractures and multiple fragment wounds to his arms and legs. Carpenter’s wounds led to a brain surgery and the loss of his right eye. Carpenter has since famously sported a glass eye that is fashioned with a Purple Heart Medal instead of an eyeball.
Both Marines claim little memory of the incident, but investigations that examined the blast pattern and the Marines’ injuries distinctly show that Carpenter’s body was pressed on the grenade when it exploded, which suppressed the blast and saved Eufrazio’s life.
June 19, 2014 marks the day that Cpl. Carpenter can claim membership in an exclusive club, namely Medal of Honor Recipient. Cpl. Carpenter is currently the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient.
The next time you watch a heroic act performed in a movie, or hear Bruno Mars sing that he’d “catch a grenade for ya,” please remember the actions of Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Kyle Carpenter. He is a true American hero, one whose bravery most of us can only emulate in our dreams.
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Military Connection: Carpenter Awarded Medal of Honor: By Joe Silva