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Medal of Honor winner took brunt of grenade for pal

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 8:27 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter took the brunt of a live grenade lobbed by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2010, saving a fellow Marine's life and nearly losing his own.

On Thursday, the 24-year-old stood beaming and very much alive as President Obama bestowed upon him the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award.

“With that singular act of courage, Kyle, you not only saved your brother in arms, you displayed heroism in the blink of an eye that will inspire for generations valor worthy of our nation's highest military decoration,” Obama said in a ceremony in the ornate East Room at the White House.

Obama said Carpenter was so badly injured he “should not be alive today.” While being treated for his injuries, he went into cardiac arrest and flat-lined three times.

That day in Helmand province, Obama said, Carpenter and Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio, his best friend, were under fire and looking for cover when a live grenade landed near them.

Carpenter has no memory of what happened, but fellow Marines say he lunged toward the grenade and “disappeared into the blast.”

Obama noted, “Keep in mind, at the time Kyle was just 21 years old. But in that instant, he fulfilled those words of Scripture: ‘Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.' ” Carpenter was found face-down, over the blast. His helmet was riddled with holes. His gear had melted and part of his Kevlar vest was blown away.

Still conscious, he asked whether Eufrazio was OK, Obama said.

Carpenter spent five weeks in a coma, waking to what the president called a “grueling rehabilitation” that involved two years in the hospital. He had brain surgery to remove shrapnel, nearly 40 operations to repair a collapsed lung, fractured fingers, a shattered right arm broken in more than 30 places and multiple skin grafts.

Obama offered: “He has a new prosthetic eye, a new jaw, new teeth — and one hell of a smile.”

The president said the South Carolina resident and Mississippi native credited his doctors at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Md., for putting him “back together well.”

Obama singled out Carpenter's Bethesda medical team for applause and noted that service members in previous wars likely would have died from such injuries.

He saluted Eufrazio, who he said was grievously wounded in the blast and was watching the ceremony from his family's home in Massachusetts.

“Your perseverance is an inspiration,” Obama said. “And just as Kyle was there for you, our nation will be there for you and your family as you grow stronger in the years ahead.”

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