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Marine who took grenade blast for comrade receives Medal of Honor

By Michael Pearson, CNN
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Retired Marine Cpl. William "Kyle" Carpenter receives award for valor
  • He took a grenade blast in Afghanistan while shielding a fellow Marine
  • He will be the eighth living Iraq, Afghanistan veteran to receive the award
  • "I am just getting started," he says

(CNN) -- William "Kyle" Carpenter lost most of his jaw and an eye when he fell on a grenade to shield a fellow Marine from the blast. His body shattered, one lung collapsed, Carpenter was nearly given up for dead after that 2010 Afghanistan firefight.

Then he spent 2½ years in a hospital as doctors worked to rebuild his body. But if you think he's bitter, think again.

"I look back, and I'm actually very appreciative I had those two and a half years, because those years put things in perspective more than a whole lifetime of things could if I wasn't there," Carpenter said.

On Thursday, he became the eighth living veteran of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award.

President Barack Obama presented the medal at a White House ceremony.

Former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan J. Pitts receives the Medal of Honor on Monday, July 21, for his actions during a battle in Afghanistan in 2008. According to the Army, Pitts launched grenade after grenade under a hail of enemy gunfire as comrades at other nearby posts fell. He also asked other soldiers to fire at his position to prevent the enemy from gaining ground. Click through to see other Afghanistan veterans who have received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor in combat. Former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan J. Pitts receives the Medal of Honor on Monday, July 21, for his actions during a battle in Afghanistan in 2008. According to the Army, Pitts launched grenade after grenade under a hail of enemy gunfire as comrades at other nearby posts fell. He also asked other soldiers to fire at his position to prevent the enemy from gaining ground. Click through to see other Afghanistan veterans who have received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor in combat.
Afghanistan vets receive Medal of Honor
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Carpenter was wounded in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on November 21, 2010, while serving as a machine gunner, according to the White House.

Carpenter and another Marine were manning a rooftop position during a firefight with Taliban insurgents when a hand grenade landed nearby, the Marine Corps said.

Carpenter rushed toward the grenade and his body took most of the blast, according to the Marine Corps. The other Marine, Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio, was also injured.

In a Defense Department video, Carpenter said he had to be revived while being evacuated by helicopter from the battle and was labeled dead on arrival at a field hospital. He later nearly died again at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he said.

"The enemy killed me. I came back, ran a marathon, completed a mud run and jumped from a plane. I won't ever quit. I am just getting started," he said in the video.

Carpenter, medically retired from the Marine Corps last year, is now a student at the University of South Carolina.

After braving gunfire to save comrades, Army vet gets highest U.S. military honor

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