“I’m going to need $100 dollars from each of you,” said medically retired Cpl. Kyle Carpenter with a chuckle.
Humor is how the next Medal of Honor recipient opened a meeting with reporters last week at the Pentagon ahead of the White House’s announcement that he will become the second of only two living Marines to receive the nation’s highest valor award for fighting in Afghanistan.
He sat down with us to discuss the White House’s announcement, the events of the day he covered a grenade with his own body to save a fellow Marine, his road to recovery and his plans for the future. Many of his comments were inspiring, even tear jerking, about the incidents of Nov. 21, 2010, when Carpenter — who deployed with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines — used his body to absorb the blast of a grenade that was thrown into the roof top position he shared with another Marine. But Carpenter first and foremost maintains a sense of humor. He is always ready with a quip.
For example, he has a tattoo of a Purple Heart on his left forearm and a bible verse on his rib cage. He said he has plans for more ink as well, “I’m brainstorming, but I can’t reveal anything yet because mom will probably handcuff me and not let me out of the house … So I plead the fifth on that one.”
Regarding the specifics of his injuries, he grinned and told another reporter there wasn’t enough room in a single notebook. His inherently positive attitude is one of the more striking traits, as if it’s important he leave a mark on everyone that meets him. He loves the Corps, God, family and country. And now that his recovery is complete, he said, he wants to finish a degree at the University of South Carolina – possibly in psychology – and help others. We’ll have a full Q&A in Monday’s edition of Marine Corps times, but here are some of the most memorable excerpts from our sit down.
“I would say the best time of being a Marine was Afghanistan. Not obviously for the scenery or the fun events over there, but there will never be a time where I am sleeping in the dirt and I haven’t showered in four months and I am with fifty other people that I will be the closest with ever. So I guess if I look at it that way I am very thankful for Afghanistan and it really means a lot to me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.” “When the grenade hit me… I almost felt like my whole body and face especially was just hit really hard with a two by four… The last few things I remember was, I felt like warm water was being poured all over me from the blood coming out… I searched with my tongue and I couldn’t feel any of my jaw just because of the trauma and everything that was missing. I remember my buddies yelling at me. I sounded like they were a football field away. I remember them yelling, ‘you are going to make it you, you are going to make it.’ And I remember trying to tell them that I was going to die and I wasn’t going to make it. I thought of my family and it upset me because I knew how devastated and upset they would be that I didn’t make it out of Afghanistan alive and that they didn’t get to see me again. I made peace with God. And six weeks later I woke up in Bethesda, Maryland.” “I know that whatever comes, really I just want to use [my Medal of Honor]to make a positive impact on people’s lives — help people and just try to make my community and hopefully the world better …”
Carpenter, still just 24, said during the interview at the Pentagon and in the following Marine Corps-produced video, that he is just getting started. The consummate optimist, he is always looking forward.