Nationals host Medal of Honor recipient
by Mike Feigen
All things considered, the evening of June 17 was a fairly uneventful one for Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter, a retired United States Marine. He visited Nationals Park, took in batting practice from the field, met Nationals players and coaches and enjoyed the game from a suite.
Two days later, he became the 79th living service member — just eight of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan — to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Awarded for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty, then-Lance Cpl. Carpenter was severely injured when he threw himself on a live grenade to protect fellow Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio in the Helmand province of Afghanistan in late 2010. The ensuing blast left Carpenter with nearly 30 fractures in his right arm, a fractured skull, punctured lung, numerous shrapnel wounds and the loss of his right eye. Eufrazio was injured by shrapnel as well, but survived the blast.
“With that singular act of courage, Kyle, you not only saved your brother in arms, you displayed a heroism in the blink of an eye that will inspire for generations — valor worthy of our nation’s highest military decoration,” President Barack Obama said Thursday during a White House ceremony.
Carpenter said military doctors labeled him P-E-A, short for Patient Expired on Arrival. But after nearly 40 surgeries over a two-and-a-half year period, many of which took place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., he battled his way back to health.
Carpenter said once it looked as though he would survive the injuries, members of his unit with the Marines started hinting that they wanted to push for him to receive the honor. This February, that process began to materialize, as Carpenter started receiving calls from the Pentagon regarding his candidacy. Then, later this spring, the biggest call finally came.
“I’m very honored, and it’s very humbling,” Carpenter said of the award. “It’s not easy to accept, because so many others give the ultimate sacrifice. I’m very appreciative in accepting it, but I accept it with a heavy heart.”
Even as he continues to internalize the significance of the award, Carpenter said he’s been grateful for all the support he’s received along the way. If anything, he said that the whirlwind of fun events leading up to the Medal of Honor ceremony, such as attending Tuesday’s Nationals game, were more about sharing the experience with those closest to him.
“I’m excited for these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but I’m equally — or more — excited for my guests and family,” he said. “They’ve been there [for me] since Afghanistan, since I got injured. I feel like I’m repaying them, saying, ‘Thank you,’ a little bit.”