Military Connection: Heroes Aren’t Perfect: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Heroes

Real heroes don’t usually become heroes by accident. Becoming a hero usually requires making a conscious decision to take action when a need arises, despite the risks or costs to one’s self.

Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter is a Medal of Honor recipient. He received the award from President Obama on August 26, 2013 for his heroism and brave conduct during the October 3, 2009 Battle of Kamdesh. During the battle, then-Specialist Carter repeatedly braved enemy machine gun and rocket-powered grenade fire to tend to his downed comrades, and helped secure the safe evacuation of his unit.

Since receiving the nation’s highest military honor, Staff Sgt. Carter’s mission has changed. He is no longer a cavalry scout. Instead of the potential for another firefight where the hero can again display his gallantry, Staff Sgt. Carter now uses his medal, his experience and his reputation to help his comrades where there is another urgent need.

Still an active duty soldier, Staff Sgt. Carter now travels around the country speaking to service members, law enforcement, boy scouts and every day Americans, raising awareness and combating the stigma tied to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This hero doesn’t offer general statements on the subject. Instead, he speaks with a voice of experience, as someone who lives with PTSD every day. During his Medal of Honor-worthy efforts, Carter and his small unit were overwhelmed by a force of more than 300 enemy fighters. Out-numbered and out-gunned, Carter witnessed eight of his brothers-in-arms perish that day. And while defending his comrades, Carter supplied deadly fire on the attackers. Needless to say, Carter struggles with the memories of that day.

People would like to believe that heroes are invincible. But that is justnot the case. Staff Sgt. Carter is doing his part to let people know that vulnerability is okay. While other generations put their Medal of Honor winners up on  pedestals as icons of perfection,  Carter is using his fame to combat the negative connotations that have long surrounded post-traumatic stress.

Carter speaks openly about his struggle with PTSD in order to convince others to do the same. He knows from his own experience that the most effective way to treat PTSD is by acknowledging the disorder and its symptoms.

By coming forward and using his position to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress, Staff Sgt. Carter is showing a different type of bravery, and a different type of heroism. Carter has seen the need to act,  and is filling that need, proving once again that he is a hero, and heroes don’t have to be perfect.