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Local visitor to get Medal of Honor

Published 10:20pm Thursday, May 22, 2014

As a journalist and an American who tries to keep somewhat informed on what’s happening on this globe, part of my daily routine is checking not only local news sites, but national ones, too.

Earlier this week, I got a pleasant surprise when I visited CNN.com.

The website carried the story of a Marine who, the White House recently announced, will become the eighth living veteran of U.S. combat in Iraq and Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, on June 19.

CNN had his photo on its homepage. I recognized him immediately.

It was Marine Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, a South Carolina native who was here in Suffolk on Memorial Day weekend 2012. He participated in the Jumping for a Purpose event at Skydive Suffolk, organized by Wounded Wear and Troopswap to help wounded veterans and the families of fallen service members reclaim some power in their lives — by skydiving.

Carpenter lost most of his jaw and an eye when he fell on a grenade to shield a fellow Marine from the blast in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 21, 2010, according to CNN. He and the other Marine were manning a rooftop during a firefight with Taliban insurgents when the hand grenade landed nearby, CNN said.

The other marine was also injured, but Carpenter’s body took most of the blast. He was labeled dead on arrival at a field hospital, CNN said. His body was shattered, and one lung had collapsed. He spent two and a half years in a hospital here in the States as doctors rebuilt his body. But none of that has made him bitter.

“I look back, and I’m actually very appreciative I had those two and a half years, because those years put things in perspective more than a whole lifetime of things could if I wasn’t there,” Carpenter said, as reported by CNN.

He referenced his skydiving experience in Suffolk on a Defense Department video: “The enemy killed me. I came back. I ran a marathon, completed a mud run and jumped from a plane. I won’t ever quit. I am just getting started,” he said in the video.

I talked to Carpenter and several of his comrades at the 2012 event. Many of them were willing to share the stories of the events that resulted in so many wounds — both visible and invisible. Watching them prepare for their jump and just live the life the enemy tried to take from them was an inspiring experience.

It’s also an experience you can live for yourself next week. Jumping for a Purpose is happening again next Friday and Saturday at Skydive Suffolk, 1200 Gene Bolton Drive. The public is invited to the event to meet the wounded veterans and learn about what they’ve gone through.

But don’t consider it a bitter pill you must swallow or make your children swallow to teach yourself or them about war, heroism or whatever spin you want to put on it. Just consider it an honor to meet these heroes.

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