What Did We Do To Deserve Men Like This?

As a country we should be asking what did we do to deserve fine young men like Corporal Kyle Carpenter (USMC-Ret.). The White House announced last week that Carpenter will be awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallant actions during a Taliban attack in 2010.

From the announcement:

On June 19, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret), the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Corporal Carpenter will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as an Automatic Rifleman with Company F, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Corporal Carpenter will be the eighth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.

The White House announcement unfortunately does nothing to tell the story of Carpenter’s selfless actions that day in Afghanistan which left him grievously wounded.

What Carpenter did was fall on a hand grenade that had been tossed up on the roof where he and LCpl Nick Eufrazio were posting security. The Marine Corps Times had a report on the incident that was published in 2012. At the time, the incident was under investigation to see exactly what happened during that attack. Carpenter doesn’t remember and his fellow Marine LCpl Eufrazio suffered traumatic brain injury from a piece of shrapnel.

Lance Cpls. Kyle Carpenter and Nick Eufrazio were posting security together on a dusty rooftop in Afghanistan when an insurgent tossed a hand grenade at them. The world melted in a white-hot blast, and the two men were rocked by an explosion that could be heard nearly a mile away.

More than a year later, the Marine Corps continues to investigate what occurred, said Lt. Col. James Fullwood and Capt. Michael Manocchio, who served as two of the senior officers in their unit, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., during that deployment. Other personnel in the compound during the Nov. 21, 2010, attack insist there’s no doubt Carpenter shielded Eufrazio from most of the blast, and deserves the Medal of Honor.

“Kyle covered that grenade,” said Hospitalman 3rd Class Christopher Frend, the corpsman who first rendered medical care to Carpenter and Eufrazio. “Grenade blasts blow up; they don’t blow down. If he hadn’t done it, what we found would have looked completely different.”

Carpenter describes his injuries in an interview with Marine Corps Times.

Carpenter was medically retired from the Marines in 2013 and is now a full time student at the University of South Carolina. Despite the 30 surgeries over 19 months to repair the injuries he suffered that day in 2010, Carpenter’s spirit wasn’t crushed. Indeed, as he says in the video below, he’s just getting started.

As I said in the intro, we should be asking what did we do as a country to have such fine men who were willing to sacrifice everything in order to protect us. I’m not sure of the answer but I know we should be extremely grateful and I am. So on this Memorial Day 2014, I would like to thank Cpl. Carpenter for his selfless gallantry and I would especially like to remember those who gave everything so that we could be free.

National Medal Of Honor Day

Today is National Medal of Honor Day. Congress has designated March 25th as the day we honor those brave individuals who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. This day was chosen as March 25th was the day the first Medals of Honor were presented in 1863.

A number of years ago I noticed an elderly gentleman parking his car at a local grocery store. What caught my eye was his license plate. It was a specialized plate from the State of North Carolina and it said “Congressional Medal of Honor”.

The gentleman in question was Max Thompson who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in battle near Haaren, Germany. I regret that I didn’t stop to speak with Sgt. Thompson and thank him but I wanted to respect his privacy while he was doing the mundane chore of grocery shopping. His citation is below:

On 18 October 1944, Company K, 18th Infantry, occupying a position on a hill near Haaren, Germany, was attacked by an enemy infantry battalion supported by tanks. The assault was preceded by an artillery concentration, lasting an hour, which inflicted heavy casualties on the company. While engaged in moving wounded men to cover, Sgt. Thompson observed that the enemy had overrun the positions of the 3d Platoon. He immediately attempted to stem the enemy’s advance single-handedly. He manned an abandoned machinegun and fired on the enemy until a direct hit from a hostile tank destroyed the gun. Shaken and dazed, Sgt. Thompson picked up an automatic rifle and although alone against the enemy force which was pouring into the gap in our lines, he ??fired burst after burst, halting the leading elements of the attack and dispersing those following. Throwing aside his automatic rifle, which had jammed, he took up a rocket gun, fired on a light tank, setting it on fire. By evening the enemy had been driven from the greater part of the captured position but still held 3 pillboxes. Sgt. Thompson’s squad was assigned the task of dislodging the enemy from these emplacements. Darkness having fallen and finding that fire of his squad was ineffective from a distance, Sgt. Thompson crawled forward alone to within 20 yards of 1 of the pillboxes and fired grenades into it. The Germans holding the emplacement concentrated their fire upon him. Though wounded, he held his position fearlessly, continued his grenade fire, and finally forced the enemy to abandon the blockhouse. Sgt. Thompson’s courageous leadership inspired his men and materially contributed to the clearing of the enemy from his last remaining hold on this important hill position.

Sgt. Thompson passed away in 1996 at the age of 74. So on this day we should remember the bravery and sacrifice of men like Sgt. Thompson and living recipients like Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta. This country would not be what it is without men like them.