Columbia, SC (WLTX) - On June 19, 2014, Lexington's Kyle Carpenter was awarded the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama.
Related Coverage:Kyle Carpenter Receives Medal of Honor
Carpenter, 24, receiveD the award for his heroic actions in Afghanistan. Back in 2010, Carpenter threw himself on a grenade during a Taliban attack, intentionally placing himself between a grenade and another Marine, saving his fellow service member's life.
Among the many injuries he sustained were the loss of his right eye and pieces of shrapnel from the grenade entering his body.
After a long recovery, he came back to the Midlands, where he's now a student at the University of South Carolina.
Before Carpenter's unique honor, News19's Clark Fouraker had a chance to speak with him in an exclusive on-on-one sitdown interview. He began by describing the fateful moments immediately after the attack.
Kyle Carpenter: I didn't have any vision. It was almost like I was looking at a TV with no cable signal. It was just kind of white and gray static look. I couldn't hear anything. My ears were ringing loud from my blown ear drums. I felt like I got hit really hard in the face by a two by four. And the next thing I remember is feeling like warm water was being poured all over me from the blood loss. The few seconds I had left, I thought about my family and how that they were going to be devastated that I wasn't going to make it out of Afghanistan alive, and how I'd die without getting to see them again.
Clark Fouraker: You thought it was over?
Kyle Carpenter: Absolutely. In the few seconds I had, I kind of understood what was happening, what was going on and that I had been severely injured. From how I felt and how quickly I was fading and the amount of blood I could feel coming out, I absolutely knew that I was not waking up.
My last thought was…I guess you could say I got right with the man upstairs. I wanted to use my last seconds to … I wanted to go to heaven. I knew that and like I said I knew it was over so, my family, that quick prayer, and I got really tired and just felt like I wanted to take a nap and I woke up six weeks later at Bethesda.
VIDEO: Part 1 of Medal of Honor: Kyle Carpenter
He would spend weeks at Bethesda before transferring to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he'd spend more than two years recovering.
Clark Fouraker: Can you event put into words the level of difficulty it was to get through all of that?
Kyle Carpenter: At first and throughout my over two and a half years in the hospital, I will say the surgeries got old. It was almost like is this ever going to end? But at Walter Reed...the incredible guys I recovered with all the military members that were injured there...we really picked each other up. And Walter Reed, from my years in the hospital there, I don't have one complaint. It's an incredible place to recover.
Clark Fouraker: When you lay your head on the pillow at night, are you surprised you did what you did?
Kyle Carpenter: I will say no. And not in any way patting myself on the back....As Marines the only people we have, and that we deploy with, and that we live and die besides is each other. I know if 1,000 Marines were put in the same situation I was in, they would do the same thing for me.
Clark Fouraker: Afghanistan – do you want to go back? Do you need to go back?
Kyle Carpenter: I would love to go back. Do I need to go back? I don't know. I haven't really thought about that. It's obviously a big part of my life and even though I was only there a short 4 months, like I said it will always be a part of me.
Clark Fouraker: You'd like to go back? Why?
Kyle Carpenter: Why? Well, hopefully to see and support and visit with the troops that are still over there. And maybe just go back for that closure. From laying on top of a roof and being totally fine to seconds before going unconscious and not thinking you're going to wake up, to the next thing you know you're laying in a hospital bed in a military hospital halfway around the world in Washington DC. So I think I would like to go back just to kind of take a deep breath and think about it and leave for that last time. Hopefully one day it'll happen.
Clark Fouraker: You mentioned that it's frustrating that you don't have a consistent memory of everything that happened. Do you try to remember more? Do you want to remember more of the whole continuous day?
Kyle Carpenter: Not really. I mean at first, like I said, it bothered me. I see it as if it comes to me and I remember, great. It's probably not [coming back]. It's been years since the incident. But I'm okay with not remembering and I think it's for the best. Like I said, I'm just really thankful to be alive. I don't focus too much on it. Maybe I did at first, but not anymore. I'm just kind of looking ahead.
You can't change what happened. I really look at it as you can only move forward. Now, I'm a full-time student here at South Carolina and I'm very much enjoying that and a degree is something that is high on my priority list. It's something that I want to accomplish. I joined the Marines to contribute to something bigger than myself and to fell like I made a difference, and I did that to the best of my ability so I feel comfortable making that next step. Now that I'm here at school, I want give the best of my ability and accomplish getting a degree. So, in my free time I try to enjoy life and absolutely make the most out of the second chance I've been given.
VIDEO: Part 2 of Medal of Honor: Kyle Carpenter
Kyle has since joined the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at USC and is already using his experience to impact those around him.
Kyle Carpenter: I have kind of a piece of paper going that any ideas I have, kind of like a rolling list any ideas that I am thinking about or might want to do or participate in, or foundations I want to support or start.
Right now I am not getting to specific because I have so much to focus on in the immediate future so I am just going to focus on this, and do what I can in the next couple of months with the spotlight coming up (NS) and then after school when I get some time to breathe and really plan stuff. I'll narrow down what I want to do.
Clark Fouraker: A lot of college students don't think about Afghanistan, the world, have you had an opportunity to talk to these young guys to Afghanistan and help them understand what we are doing over there?
Kyle Carpenter: I have a lot of times when we are sitting around watching sports, playing video games, whatever the case is, we talk and they ask questions. And as much as they have taught me about being a college student and coming to school, I feel like its been reciprocated.
VIDEO: Part 3 of Medal of Honor: Kyle Carpenter
Clark Fouraker: Did you ever think you'd earn the Medal of Honor?
Kyle Carpenter: I didn't at all. Now that everything is happening, it definitely surreal and kind of weird that all these rumors that have circulated for years and years – you know that it's actually happening.
Clark Fouraker: Nervous?
Kyle Carpenter: I wouldn't say nervous. I would say a little anxious because I know the weight and responsibility this medal carries and all the military members and people of this nation I am going to wear it for and represent. It's a lot. I'm thankful and very honored, but it's definitely a double-edged sword. We go over there and courageous and heroic acts happen everyday. And we in the military raise our right hand and agree to give up our life to serve the country. It's all positive and great things, but it weighs on me.
Clark Fouraker: What are you going to do with the medal itself, where are you going to put it?"
Kyle Carpenter: They give you two. They give you the original which is the one that they present to you the day you are awarded it, and then you get a duplicate. And the original I will put in a very ,very safe place and rarely, if ever, look at it, or open it, or do anything with it, and the duplicate I am going to wear for the Marine corp, the military, and South Carolina and the nation.
Clark Fouraker: What's it like when the president calls your iPhone?
Kyle Carpenter: He was nice. It was a quick conversation. I got out of class and headed straight home to Lexington. So I went home because I wanted to share that moment with my family. It was surreal. I hung up the phone and headed back to class.
From Nov 28, 2010 when I got medivaced back to the United States, there hasn't been a day that's gone by where we haven't felt that love and support. So, mentally I've been great and still doing great. I love school here and I love South Carolina so I'm going to continue keep being great.