EDITORIAL – The idea of someone throwing himself on a grenade in a wartime situation, to save the lives of his friends, has long since passed into something of legend. I mean those kind of things don’t “really” happen, especially these days, do they? Well, I’m here to tell you that they do, and when it does happen, it becomes something else entirely; an example of courage that is not often heard of.
Such is the case with Marine Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter. He was standing watch with a fellow Marine on a rooftop in the Marjah district of Helmand province, on the morning of November 21, 2010, when a Taliban insurgent tossed a grenade at their position. Unbelievably, without regard for his own well being, Carpenter, without hesitation, threw himself on the grenade, smothering its blast, and saving his fellow Marine’s life.
While I would like to think that I have done some things in my life, as a buddy of mine said to me, knowing what he did makes me feel like I haven’t done much at all. I mean, where do such men come from?
Jumping on the grenade should have been the end of Carpenter, but it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. Just over three and a half years after that fateful day, he stood at attention and received the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award, from the hands of the commander in chief, President Barack Obama. What happened between that morning in Afghanistan and the White House ceremony is an even greater example of courage than Carpenter displayed on the spur of the moment.
Carpenter, who should have died that morning, survived being wounded from head to toe by the grenade’s blast. He spent five weeks in a coma and two and a half years enduring 40 grueling surgeries. He went into cardiac arrest and died three times, each time being brought back from death by his doctors. The doctors were obliged to remove shrapnel from his head and repair a collapsed lung, fractured fingers, and a right arm that was broken in more than 30 places. He received a number of prosthetics, including an eye, a jaw, teeth, and skin grafts.
While I don’t personally know Corporal Carpenter, I bet one of the biggest reasons for his surviving such an ordeal is that he had a strong reason to live, or what I call his “why.” That, and the fact that he is just one tough Marine.
Corporal Carpenter is now a motivational speaker and an advocate for Wounded Warriors. He is studying psychology at the University of South Carolina. And, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I hear that he is using his battle scars, which he does not hide, to impress women. I certainly hope so. He’s definitely earned it.
In closing, there is only one thing that can be said from one Marine to another who has proven himself too tough to die. Semper Fi, Marine. Job well done.