Kyle Carpenter's Medal of Honor status has been confirmed
by the Department of the Navy, which announced earlier this week that the 24-year-old will become the third Marine Medal of Honor recipient from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The South Carolina-born Carpenter earned his Medal of Honor Award – the nation's highest military honor for valor – when he threw himself on a grenade on Nov. 21, 2010 while, standing guard on a rooftop in the Marjah district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Marine Corps Times reported
Carpenter's selfless act saved the life of his friend and fellow Marine Lance Corporal, Nicholas Eufrazio. In the process, Carpenter lost his right eye, shattered his jaw, lost most of his teeth, and broke his arm in more than a dozen places, according to Marine Corps Times. Carpenter was subsequently medically retired by the Marine Corps at the rank of corporal.
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Eufrazio also suffered severe injuries as a result of the blast, specifically to the frontal lobe of his brain which was impacted by shrapnel and prevented him from being able to speak for two years.
The reason the Medal of Honor designation has taken more than three years to issue is reportedly due to an ongoing investigation by the Marine Corps, delayed in part by the fact that no other Marines witnessed Carpenter's heroic act except for Eufrazio. The two were on a rooftop guard post, which is most often shielded within a wooden structure.
Additionally, investigators were reportedly unable to confirm the details of the incident due to Carpenter's inability to remember exactly what happened because of the trauma he suffered from the grenade blast. Also, Eufrazio only regained his ability to speak in late 2012.
Marines serving with Carpenter in the deployment, however, did tell investigators that there was no doubt in their minds the then 21-year-old Leatherneck attempted to shield his fellow Marine from the grenade blast, the Marine Corps Times noted.
"Our feeling has always been that Kyle shielded Nick from that blast," Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Kroll, Carpenter’s platoon sergeant, told Marine Corps Times.
Further, Navy Corpsman 3rd Class Christopher Frend, who attended to both Carpenter and Eufrazio's injuries immediately after the blast, told investigators that the Medal of Honor recipient's injuries indicated that he covered the grenade with his body as the explosion occurred directly under his torso.
"Grenade blasts blow up; they don’t blow down," Frend told Marine Corps Times in 2012. "If he hadn’t done it, what we found would have looked completely different."
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Carpenter will join retired Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer
, who while serving in Afghanistan in 2009, recovered the bodies of several of his comrades while wounded and under fire, and deceased Marine Corporal Jason Dunham, who while on patrol in Husaybah, Iraq, threw himself on a grenade to save the lives of several of his fellow Marines. He succumbed to his wounds eight days after carrying out the ultimate sacrifice and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
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