Carpenter Joins Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 20, 2014 Medal of Honor recipient retired Marine Corps Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter embodies what American society is all about and he reflects the quality of its people, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during Carpenter’s Hall of Heroes induction ceremony at the Pentagon here today.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel greets Medal of Honor recipient retired Marine Corps Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter during a Hall of Heroes induction ceremony at the Pentagon, June 20, 2014. President Barack Obama presented Carpenter with the Medal of Honor at the White House a day earlier, for his actions while deployed in Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2010. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Carpenter was honored at the Pentagon a day after receiving the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony. At today’s Pentagon ceremony, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos, Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett, and Carpenter’s family, friends and comrades looked on.
“President [Barack] Obama talked about the different dimensions of Kyle Carpenter’s life -- where he came from, how he was raised, recognition of his parents who are with us today, his two brothers … relatives, friends and as General Amos noted, those yesterday who served with Kyle,” Hagel said at the Pentagon ceremony.
“But it is a recognition, as General Amos said and the president said yesterday, of who we are,” the secretary said. “And what Kyle Carpenter did, what he represents, what he embodies and what he reflects is about our society … the quality of our people.”
Hagel said this recognition is an indication of “the strong beliefs our people have in each other,” and Carpenter’s “act of heroism” is a “pretty clear sampling of who we are as Americans.”
“It doesn't mean we're better than anybody else, the secretary said. “But we have a unique way of taking care of each other.”
In explaining the level of heroism required to become a Medal of Honor recipient, Hagel cited the requirements for earning the medal which was established 153 years ago.
The deed must be proved by incontestable evidence, at least two eye witnesses, he said, and it must be so outstanding that it clearly distinguishes the recipient's gallantry beyond the call of duty from lesser forms of bravery.
“It must involve the risk of one’s life,” Hagel said, “and it must be the type of deed which if the honoree had not done it, would not subject him or her to any justified criticism.”
And as the commandant noted, there aren’t many Medal of Honor recipients still living today, the secretary said.
“But this man is one of the unique people who will continue to shape and influence and impact our society for many years to come,” Hagel said of Carpenter.
The defense secretary said Carpenter’s family, over the past few days, heard many of the things their Marine had done, but “they didn’t hear anything new that they didn't already know about their son.”
Hagel also acknowledged the service and sacrifice of Marine Corps Cpl. Nick Eufrazio, Carpenter’s best friend in the Marines who is “a wounded warrior who is recovering from his wounds,” and all the Marines who served with him.
“Yesterday, as I noted, when President Obama read the citation and told a story about what happened on November 21, 2010 at Patrol Base Dakota in Afghanistan,” Hagel said.
While the president laid out the specifics, Hagel read a journal entry from Marine Corps Sgt. Jared Lilly and Navy Hospital Corpsman Chris Frend, who helped Carpenter and Eufrazio onto the medevac helicopter following being injured.
“‘It’s been seven days now since the worst day of my life, when all hell broke loose,’” Hagel read. “‘The sight was horrific. He lays there lifeless as I put tourniquets on his arms. When ‘Carp’ resumed consciousness he asked, ‘Am I going to die?’ I told him no, he was too strong for that. I almost broke down several times, but I couldn't let my friend down.’”
The defense secretary continued reading the journal entry describing how the two wounded Marines were placed on the helicopter after it took an “eternity” to arrive.
“‘As we loaded him on the bird, I yelled that I loved him,’” the secretary read. “‘I was a zombie -- a complete, broken down zombie -- walking back. And sat down and broke down in tears. Began to yell about how we did it all wrong, how we had failed him. I felt helpless and all I could do was pray.’”
Hagel noted that Carpenter, in discussing his service and his injury, hopes to remind people that “things like this happen -- they happen every day, and people just don’t see it.”
“Well, Kyle’s work and dedication have helped him with all that,” the secretary said. “And he’s helped make an awareness of what happens in war very real.”
His recent marathon, his “Tough Mudder” event, and his parachute jumping, Hagel said, reminds all citizens of the resilience of more than 52,000 American service members wounded in America’s wars since Sept. 11.
Hagel also spoke of the “devotion of Kyle’s family to his recovery,” noting “his mother, Robin, trudging through the snow ... across a base to get a vanilla milkshake when that was the only thing Kyle could taste.”
This devotion, Hagel said, reminds people of the service and sacrifices that all military families make, and the skill and dedication of Kyle’s military medical team -- some of whom attended the ceremony.
“I want to add my thanks on behalf of our country and all the Department of Defense for what you did for Kyle,” the secretary said.
Hagel said Carpenter has “acknowledged many times” the medical professionals for “putting him back together pretty well.” And they’ve expressed their excitement at Carpenter’s recovery, the secretary said, as he made that first lap around the hospital ward.
“It does again remind us of the extraordinary talent and support of all of our people, in particular, our medical services and our medical providers,” the secretary said.
Hagel also lauded Carpenter’s new life following his military service, where “we see the enormous potential of a new generation of veterans.”
“Last fall, in his first semester at the University of South Carolina, Kyle earned a 3.9 grade point average,” he said. “In pursuing higher education and advanced job training, Kyle is joined by more than one million veterans, service members and their families who have taken advantage of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill.”
In discussing this “next great generation,” Hagel quoted President Harry Truman, saying, “‘“We’ll do in peacetime for this great nation what they did for us in wartime.’”
“But just as we honor Kyle’s valor and his sacrifice, we also remember the fallen,” the secretary said. We remember those who we lost from this war -- we remember the 453 Marines and all 2,362 American service members who have given their lives in Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom.”
The defense secretary also quoted poet Carl Sandburg regarding valor, noting that those who possess have received a gift.
“‘Valor is a gift. Those having it never know,’” Hagel said. “‘They never know for sure if they have it ‘til the test comes.’”
“Today, by inscribing Kyle’s name in this Hall of Heroes, we honor that gift,” the secretary said. “We honor all who serve, we honor the Marine Corps. We honor the Marines. We honor Kyle’s family, and we honor a hero -- William Kyle Carpenter.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)