Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
Corporal William Kyle Carpenter covered an enemy grenade in Afghanistan to protect his fellow Marine. He was severely injured, and had to be resuscitated multiple times, but he survived. It took him three years to recover, and he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
William Kyle Carpenter was born on October 17th, 1989 in Jackson Mississippi. He enlisted in the Marines after graduating high school, and deployed to Marjah Afghanistan in late July 2010.
The days in Afghanistan were hot and long. Carpenter and his unit fought from sunrise to sunset nearly every day, even going so far as to wade through sewage canals to avoid IEDs.
On November 19th, then Lance Corporal Carpenter and the rest of his squad received orders to take one of the last enemy strongholds of their operation.
Two days later, Carpenter and Lance Corporal Nick Eufrazio were posted on a rooftop on the perimeter of their new patrol base. Carpenter held Eufrazio in high regard- he was always up front, aware of his surroundings, and Carpenter credits him with saving many lives. After going on every patrol together, they had become best friends.
In light of a grenade explosion that injured three of their allies just days earlier, and their low-level bunker with minimal cover, Carpenter and Eufrazio did their best to prepare themselves for potential grenade and arms fire. Nevertheless, while under fire from AK-47s, a Taliban grenade suddenly landed right between them. Acting fast, Carpenter covered the grenade before it exploded, absorbing most of the blast and protecting Lance Corporal Eufrazio. Quickly feeling his consciousness fading, Carpenter said “I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die”.
Carpenter’s fellow Marines and a Navy Corpsmen fought for nearly 36 hours to protect him and the base, coming under small arm, sniper and grenade fire. They suffered 50% casualties, but they succeeded in their defense, and Carpenter was airlifted to a hospital. He was designated “Person Expired on Arrival”, meaning he had died, but they resuscitated him several times at the hospital until he was stable.
Carpenter was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland to start his recovery. It took him 5 weeks to fully regain consciousness. The blast had impacted his memory, and he couldn’t remember anything immediately surrounding his injury, but forensic data told the story of his sacrifice. The blast had knocked out most of Carpenter’s teeth, lacerated three arteries in his neck, sent shrapnel into his brain, damaged his left eye and caused him to lose his right. Additionally, his right arm was almost amputated due to its 30 fractures, but the doctors were able to save it. Carpenter spent 3 years recovering in the hospital, undergoing 40 surgeries.
Eufrazio was also injured in the blast, suffering a traumatic brain injury, but survived thanks to Carpenter’s selfless action.
On June 14th, 2014, Corporal William Kyle Carpenter was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage that day in Afghanistan. He later said this about the U.S. Military’s highest award: “It’s a difficult medal to wear because of what it comes with. It represents our country, our history, those who have given life and limb. The medal represents sacrifice, not only from a military perspective, but in civilian life. From the smallest to the biggest thing, we’re all presented with opportunities, and whether you’re in the military or right here on the streets of Columbia, South Carolina as a civilian, everybody should serve. Without service and sacrifice, we would not have the nation we do today.”
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our executive producer and mixing engineer, Declan Rohrs is our associate producer, scriptwriter, and recording engineer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.