Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter
I have always said that one of the greatest things to come from running a film and video production company are the incredible people we get to meet on a daily basis.
On June 19, 2014 Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kyle Carpenter for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. A few months back, in Columbia South Carolina, we shot an interview with Kyle for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
By all accounts, Kyle shouldn’t be alive today. On November 21, 2010, Kyle’s platoon woke up to the sound of AK-47 fire. As their compound began taking fire, Kyle and Lance Corporal Nicholas Eufrazio took cover up on a roof, low on their backs behind a circle of sandbags. And then a grenade landed nearby, its pin already pulled. They found Kyle lying face down, directly over the blast area. His helmet was riddled with holes. His gear was melted. Part of his Kevlar vest was blown away. One of the doctors who treated him later said Kyle was “literally wounded from the top of his head to his feet.” The President honored Kyle because he “faced down that terrible explosive power, that unforgiving force, with his own body — willingly and deliberately — to protect a fellow Marine.” Kyle was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of others. Eventually, Kyle woke up after five weeks in a coma. He endured more than two and a half years in the hospital, with grueling rehabilitation. Brain surgery to remove shrapnel from his head. Nearly 40 surgeries to repair a collapsed lung, fractured fingers, a shattered right arm broken in more than 30 places, multiple skin grafts. He has a new prosthetic eye, a new jaw, new teeth — and one hell of a smile. Corporal William Kyle Carpenter should not be alive today, but the fact that he is gives us reason to trust that there there are brave, strong and resilient people that serve and protect the precious and amazing life that we live in the United States of America.
Here, as accurately transcribed as possible from a recording, is Kyle’s deeply moving and personal speech.
“With this short amount of time I have to speak to you tonight, I couldn’t possibly sum up the historical battle of Marjah.
I am comforted, though, by the fact that the men in this room don’t need a summary because you were right there beside me. You felt the incredible heat of a 100 percent humidity day and the cool waters of a muddy canal. You felt the weight of 100 pounds of gear, ammo and water at your back, the weight of knowing as Marines we are and forever will be the first line of defense for our loved ones, our nation and above all, freedom.
I stand here today extremely proud of you all. I’m proud of the job you did in the face of what most cannot even fathom. I am more than honored to call you friends, fellow Marines and brothers. You stand as an example for others and for what’s best for not only our nation but the rest of the world.
The United States military member is a beacon of hope in dark places for suffering people around the world. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Many gave their limbs to help people have lives free of oppression and full of freedom and prosperity.
Even though there are dark days and have been dark days since our deployment, and long nights, remember what Gen. [George S.] Patton said: ‘It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died; rather, we should thank God that such men lived.’
Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you did in that country. You are alive today and have been blessed with this opportunity of life. Don’t waste it. Live a life worth living, full of meaning and purpose, and one that will make the fallen who are looking down on us proud.
For the families of the fallen, Blue Star families, active duty families, retired, and all military families and service members, I thank you for your service. You don’t hear enough, ‘I appreciate your sacrifice and what you go through here at home or half a world away deployed.’
To everyone here tonight, I thank you for having me. I’m extremely honored to stand in front of you and I’m very humbled that you wanted me to speak to you here tonight.
Marines, I’m proud to have worn the same uniform as you.
Never forget that when no one else would raise their right hand, you did. You sacrificed and became part of our nation’s history and our Marine Corps legacy for taking part in the historical battleground of Marjah. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.”
[Carpenter left the podium, but returned a moment later.]
“I really struggled with the idea that I would, not have to, but most likely be encouraged to wear my medal. And I say struggled because, let me just say that I don’t want to wear this. I don’t like wearing this.
But I do because, you know, if I can inform one person of what we do and what we’re about, or what we sacrificed over there, I do it for that. I wear it for all of you.
And I just hope that you know that no matter where I’m wearing it, it’s not because I want to. It’s putting on a good face, trying to attach something good to the Marine Corps, to contribute and help people understand our side of life, what we go through, what we’re about. And everything we’ve done from past generations until now, the great job we’ve done to keep our freedom, to keep our men alive.
So I wore it tonight for you. Feel free to come up after and touch it, whatever you like. It’s your medal.”
Follow Kyle at @chiksdigscars