Washington, DC (WLTX) - Retired Marine Lance Corporal Kyle Carpenter has been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, for his heroic actions in Afghanistan nearly four years ago.
Carpenter, who's from Lexington County, received the tribute from President Barack Obama at a Thursday afternoon ceremony in the East Room of the White House. His family, fellow Marines, and dignitaries from South Carolina all watched as Obama placed the award around his neck.
Carpenter was nominated for the medal for his actions while serving in Afghanistan during a mission to drive the Taliban out of their strongholds. On November 21, 2010, Carpenter and fellow Marine Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio were standing guard on a rooftop in the Helmand Province when a hand grenade was thrown at their location. Carpenter jumped on the enemy device, saving the life of Eufrazio.
Special Coverage:Medal of Honor: the Kyle Carpenter Story
"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. Read President Obama's Full Remarks
After the ceremony Carpenter, who the President described as "still the same humble guy from Gilbert," showed his humility over what has happened.
"When the President put the Medal around my neck, I felt the weight of a nation," he said.
Carpenter still has no memory of the moment the blast happened--he says he doesn't think those recollections will ever return. But his fellow Marines who were there remember what Kyle did--and said--right after the explosion.
"Kyle kept asking if Nick was okay," Obama told the audience at the ceremony.
The toll on Carpenter's body was heavy. He would lose his right eye, and suffer injuries that one doctor described as ranging from his head to his feet. On the operating table, he flatlined three times; each time, though, he came back.
He spent the next two and a half years in a hospital, requiring nearly 40 surgeries, including skin grafts and a procedure to remove shrapnel from his brain.
While Carpenter saved Eufrazio's life, the man he rescued also has overcome much since that fateful day. The blast left Eufrazio with serious wounds, and he was not able to make Thursday's ceremony. During the tribute, Obama recognized Eufrazio's sacrifice, as well as the Marines who died during the same attack.
Since coming back to South Carolina, Carpenter, who's now 24-years-old, has become a student at the University of South Carolina, where he's thinking of majoring in psychology. His goal is to help others overcome adversity with his life experiences. Already, he's been sharing his story as a motivational speaker.
"Kyle is a shining example of what our nation need to encourage," Carpenter said. "Veterans who come home and use their incredible skills and talents to keep our country strong. And we can all learn from Kyle's example."
Carpenter spoke to the media following the ceremony. You can watch that video below.