William Kyle Carpenter, a Marine Corps veteran from Gilbert who was severely wounded in 2010 while fighting in Afghanistan, will receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s top award for valor, according to a report in Marine Corps Times.
He would be the third Marine to receive the Medal of Honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the first South Carolinian to receive the decoration since the Vietnam War.
Carpenter, 24, was wounded when he threw himself on a grenade to save a friend and fellow Marine’s life. The young corporal lost his right eye and most of his teeth. His jaw and right arm were shattered and he has undergone dozens of surgeries.
Carpenter was a student at the University of South Carolina last fall studying physical education, but he is not currently enrolled there, according to the school. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
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Efforts by The State to confirm the report with The White House and Headquarters Marine Corps were unsuccessful.
The Rev. Eric Wolf of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lexington, who has held several fundraising events to help pay for travel expenses for Carpenter’s family, said he had not heard the news Wednesday.
“But I think Kyle is one of the most genuine human beings I’ve ever met,” he told The State. “He deserves it.”
Carpenter family friend Ann Ricard, Midlands president of Blue Star Mothers, an organization for mothers who have children in military service, said that while she knew that Carpenter had been nominated, she had received no word about the award as of Wednesday.
According to the report, the Marine Corps is finalizing plans with the White House for a ceremony in Washington later this year, unnamed officials said.
Carpenter, in a 2011 interview with The State, said his unit was fighting in a village they called Shadier because it was between two other villages they named Shady and Shadiest. During the firefight, a hand grenade landed in front of Carpenter and his best friend in Afghanistan, Cpl. Nick Eufrazio of Plymouth, Mass.
Carpenter absorbed most of the blast, which took his right eye, many of his teeth and mangled his right arm, among other injuries. A sliver of shrapnel went into Eufrazio’s brain.
Carpenter just remembers seeing the grenade. Then a white flash. Then a fellow Marine telling him he would be fine. Then, four weeks later, he woke up in a hospital in Germany.
“The second I woke up, I saw my family by my bedside,” he said at the time. “I took 99 percent of the blast. But one little piece of shrapnel got by me and went into (Eufrazio’s) brain.”
Both men were treated at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland.
After the story in The State, Carpenter was featured in two stories in the Marine Corps Times in 2012, a feature story in Readers Digest and on syndicated talk shows.
Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Kroll, Carpenter’s platoon sergeant, told Marine Corps Times that no one in the unit knows exactly what happened, but “our feeling has always been that Kyle shielded Nick from that blast.”
Another member of the unit said the blast seat of the grenade, which causes detonation, was found underneath Carpenter.
The Marine Corps Times report said that Carpenter has maintained close ties with the Corps. In November, he posted a Facebook photo with Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett and Afghanistan Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyer.
The Corps’ only other post-9/11 Medal of Honor recipient, Cpl. Jason Dunham, was recognized posthumously for smothering a grenade in Iraq in 2004, the report said.