Editorial | A salute to South Carolina’s most recent Medal of Honor recipient

The following editorial appeared Friday in The (Columbia) State:

Many well-trained, experienced troops would struggle to definitively say how they would respond in the heat of a crisis, when lives hang in the balance — a fact that makes Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter’s heroic act that spared the life of a fellow Marine all the more amazing.

While serving in Afghanistan in 2010, Cpl. Carpenter — at age 21 and a world away from his Gilbert home — showed little regard for his own safety in shielding a fellow Marine from a live grenade lobbed by the Taliban, saving his comrade’s life.

Many of us would like to think we would respond similarly. But it’s difficult to fully comprehend that level of sacrifice and bravery outside of having actually done so. Such an uncommon, selfless act demands uncommon and rare recognition, which is why President Barack Obama recently bestowed the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, on Cpl. Carpenter.

The medal, reserved for the most selfless acts of valor and efforts that go beyond the call of duty, is typically awarded to the recipient by the president in a White House ceremony. Roughly 3,500 have been awarded since the honor was established in 1861.

The fact that the S.C. Marine, who is medically retired, could stand before President Obama at all, let alone to receive this great honor, is nothing short of a miracle: Cpl. Carpenter, now 24, nearly died in the process of saving his fellow Marine’s life. While being treated for his injuries, he went into cardiac arrest and flat-lined three times. He spent five weeks in a coma, followed by two years of intense rehabilitation in the hospital. Not only that, but he endured brain surgery to remove shrapnel, nearly 40 operations to repair a collapsed lung, fractured fingers and more.

We commend Cpl. Carpenter for his selfless act of heroism. We are proud to call him a fellow South Carolinian and American. It is a source of great pride, humility and indebtedness to know that men and women of such caliber serve in our military.

In commending Cpl. Carpenter for his act of bravery, it is not lost on us that other South Carolinians, including Midlands natives, have made the ultimate sacrifice as they served our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. South Carolina has lost 114 servicemen, servicewomen and civilians serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since January 2002. We salute those who have perished in the defense of the United States; no words, no manner of recognition could adequately express our nation’s debt of gratitude to them and their families.

The many men and women who put themselves in peril in the defense of our great nation don’t do so in search of medals or recognition; they do so out of a sense of honor, duty and service. But it would be condemnable to allow their acts of valor to go unrecognized.

Not only has Cpl. Carpenter made South Carolina and the Midlands proud, but his selfless act serves as an example to us all, and should spur us to be even more dedicated and selfless as we serve our fellow man and community. Godspeed, Cpl. Carpenter. We wish you well.