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President Obama Awards the Medal of Honor

Cpl. Kyle Carpenter receives the military's highest recognition.
28:34 | 06/19/14

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Transcript for President Obama Awards the Medal of Honor
Well myself my fellow Marines we were. In -- village that was initially held by enemy forces. We knew that we need -- set -- greater marine presence to. I know and protect the village. And and the people within it. But to further our mission are trying to bring stability that region. -- of the -- when he first 2010. Myself and they give -- -- fellow marine we're on top -- -- providing security for the Marines inside the compound that we are living in. And -- I was -- pretty hard by an enemy intimate. Corporal William Kyle carpenter lost the -- of his right eye because of that grenade a live grenade. That he jumped on to protect his fellow soldier shielding him from the blast. And today President Obama will be presenting the medal of honor for his bravery and gallantry in the battlefield hello everyone I'm Michelle Franzen in New York. A war veterans receiving the highest military honor. Is given for personal acts of valor to those who go above and beyond the call of duty. Taking to the east room of the White House says listening to the ceremony just get -- -- Eyes. He responded with valor and -- community to safeguard the life of his friend -- you phrase you. And now as the nation's highest award for such inimitable selflessness and courage. His draped around corporal carpenters neck. Encircle him with the depth of your steadfast month. -- -- his innermost an unspoken thoughts. So that as he carries the unfathomable weight of this honor. He will be enabled and emboldened. To speak on behalf and encourage those -- -- untold sacrifices. And humble service. Need his firm and compassionate voice. We lift up in prayer all those who remain in harm's way throughout the globe. And pray your abiding grace on the families and friends of the Marines sailors. Soldiers airmen and coast Guardsmen. Who have given their lives in service to this country. -- stow your wrist among those who lead this nation and shape its endeavors. May all of us as Americans yield our -- to your divine guidance. And follow the example of -- our heroes. Who loved country more than self. And mercy more than life. God bless America. On that. Thank your right please be -- -- -- Michelle and myself welcome to the White House. The man. You see before you today. Corporal William -- carpenter. Should not be alive today. -- remains are one of them. Most awful weapons of war. -- -- Way about a pound but -- pact -- TNT. If one lands nearby home. You have mere seconds to seek cover. When it detonates its fragments shoot out in every direction. And even at a distance. Spray of shrapnel can inflict devastating injuries on the human body. Up close it's almost certain death. But we are here because this man. This United States marine. Face down that. Terrible explosive power that on for -- force. -- his own body. Willingly. And deliberately. To protect a fellow marine. When that grenade exploded. -- partner's body took the brunt. Of the blast. His injuries were called catastrophic. It seemed as -- He was going to die. While being treated he went into cardiac arrest and three times he flat one. Three times doctors brought him back. Along with his parents who -- -- survival. Are -- We thank god they did. Because -- that singular act of courage. Kyle -- not only saved. Your brother in arms you displayed. Heroism in the blink of an iron. There will inspire for generations. Valor worthy of our nation's highest military decoration. The medal about. Now -- I've actually met before. During his long recovery. At Walter Reed he and some are other -- -- came the White House to celebrate. The World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. Some -- you may be aware I am a White Sox fan. Kyle likes the Braves. So -- tough -- for both of us. But after the ceremony. Michelle and I had the chance to meet trial and at the time he was still undergoing surgeries. But he was up and he was walking and he was working. His way toward being independent again towards. The -- you -- here today. And -- Main message we want to -- is welcome back we're so proud to have you here. We just spent some time not just -- -- but also it was wonderful family. And anybody who has had a chance to get to know this young man knows. You're not gonna get. A better example. What you want an American or marine. Despite all the attention he's still the same -- -- from. -- -- South Carolina population of about 600. My guest today it's only population 500 and ninety something. These days he's also at the University of South Carolina. Just -- normal college student he says. -- for the gamecocks. You notice the -- doesn't hide his scars he's proud of and the service that they represent. And that he tells me this and son has quote him he says the girls -- like. So he's he's got his work on angle on this thing. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- But there's there's a quote there. In addition tormented distinguished guests -- warm welcome those who made this man the marine that he is Kyle's father Jim. Trials lovely mom. Robin and his brother's. Price and -- one of whom is going to be joining. Kyle. -- that South Carolina. Another game got them and we got one is going to be it says -- We also have -- marine Brothers who -- -- and Afghanistan and through his recovery. And I also want to welcome. The members of the medal of honor society whose ranks -- -- today. Collins' fellow Marines served during the surge of forces that I ordered. To Afghanistan early in my presence. Their mission was to drive the -- run out of their strongholds. Protect the Afghan people and give them a chance to reclaim their communities. Kyle -- platoon were in Helmand Province and Marta. Pushing their way across open fields and muddy canals. Bearing. Their heavy packs even as -- could heat up 215. Degrees. In one small village. They turn to -- compound and to their base. The insurgents nearby -- variants -- with sniper fire and automatic weapon fire and rocket propelled grenades. That morning -- set our alarm clock was. AK 47 fire. Some of the men were by the response gearing up for another day somewhere -- up -- Maurice. Somewhere in makeshift -- senators a simple mud building. Planning the -- for patrols. Up on the roof behind a circle of sandbags to Marines man the polls. Trial. And Lance corporal Nicholas. France. The compound -- to -- fire. Was seeking cover -- neck way to download off on their backs. Behind those sandbags. And then the grenade land. With the thought it's been already poll that was about to explode. And Kyle has no memory of what happened next. What we do know is that -- -- on that -- he wasn't just with a fellow -- he was with his best friend. -- -- -- and training. In Afghanistan they patrol together day and night. Friendship forged in fire. Kyle says. About -- was my point man. I loved him like -- brother. When the grenade landed other Marines in the compound looked up and saw it happen. Kyle tried to stand he -- forward toward that grenade. Many disciplines disappeared into the blast. -- might -- time Kyle was just 41 years old. But in that instant he fulfilled those words of scripture. Greater love. Have no man than this that a man lay down his life. For his friends. They found -- lying face down directly over the blaster. His helmet was riddled with holes his gear was melted. Part of his Kevlar vest was blown away. One of the doctors who treated -- later said -- was -- -- wounded from the top said. To history. And for a moment I was still conscious. His eyes were open but he couldn't see him. -- -- remembers everything went white. And yet even then his thoughts were not of himself. One of the Marines who was there remembers. How Kyle kept asking one question. And that was whether -- was okay. Menace -- strength drain away he sensed the end was coming. So. According -- -- memories my last thought was to make peace with god. I asked for his forgiveness. Was trying to make the best and most of my last few seconds your honor. Medal of honor is presented for gallantry on the battle field. But today we also recognize -- sharpener for his -- sense. In the hard fight for recovery. Eventually Kyle -- After five weeks in a -- I want to consider what Kyle -- -- just to stand here today. More than two and a half years. In the hospital. Grueling rehabilitation. Brain surgery to remove shrapnel from his head. Nearly forty surgeries to repair a collapsed long fractured finger is a shattered right arm broken in more than thirty places. Multiple skin -- -- -- a new prosthetic. A new jaw new T. And one hell of a smile. And -- the first to give. Credit elsewhere. -- doctors at Bethesda he says put me back together well. Today is also a reminder that in pass or somebody with injuries as severe -- -- one of -- So many of our wounded -- from today's wars are alive. Not just because of a remarkable advances in technology. But. Primarily because of the extraordinary dedication and skill of our military. And our VA medical professionals. So we need to keep doing everything we can in our power to give our wounded warriors in those who treat them. The sport that they need and I think this is a wonderful opportunity to. To ask doctors Deborah Malone and Lauren Greer and the rest of -- medical team were here to please stand I see -- amazing work every time I visit. Bethesda. Every time I visited Walter Reed. It's pretty rare where you got a job where you just know you're doing God's work every single day and they don't. Thank you for the miracles you worked. For wondered. Troops and veterans. A Kyl says he'll -- this medal for all who serve. And for those who didn't make it back and for those who struggle still. So today we also are two members of his team made the ultimate sacrifice in that deployment. Kyle's friends Lance corporal Timothy M Jackson of Corbin Kentucky. And Lance corporal Dakota our use of Greenwood Louisiana. And our thoughts are also with the marine who else say that day. His brother neck. I've got to meet -- well nearly two years after the blast someone in my visits to Walter Reed -- also suffered grievous wounds. As a result of traumatic brain injury could speak for more than a year. He also ignored multiple surgeries. Today his recovery continues. He lives at home with -- -- in Plymouth Massachusetts where he is watching this ceremony. So -- on behalf of all of us I want to know we honor your sacrifice as well. Your perseverance is an inspiration. And just Kyle was there for you. Our nation will be there for you and your family as you grow stronger in the years ahead. If any of our wounded mortars. Seek an example. -- well let me -- that. If any America. Six a monologue the strength and resilience that define us as eight people including. This. Newest 9/11 generation. -- want to consider cut. After the he's been through these skis. He snowboarders. He's jumped from a plane with -- -- -- what. He trudged through rates six mile mud run. Completed the Marine Corps marathon. Says he wants to do a triathlon. He's a motivational speaker. An advocate. For his fellow wounded warriors. Is thinking about majoring in psychology -- you can use. His own experiences. To help others. He got stellar grades. Zimbabwe's -- four years old. And says I'm -- good start. In other words -- as a shining example of what our nation needs -- -- This veterans who come home and then use their incredible skills and talents to keep our country strong. We can all learn from -- example. As we prepare for the reading of the citation I'd like to close -- -- his own words. A message. I think for every American. It took a life changing event. To get me to truly appreciate the precious an amazing life I've been blessed with. Please take it for me enjoy every day to the fullest. Don't take life too seriously. Always try to make -- Appreciate the small and simple funds. Be kind and help others. But the ones you love always know you love them and when things get -- trust there -- a bigger plan and that you will be stronger for. Pretty good message. Corporal William -- -- should not be alive today but the fact that he has gives us reason to trust that there is indeed. A bigger point. God bless you -- god bless all who serve. And protect. The precious an amazing life that we are blessed -- may god continue to bless and keep strong the United States of America. Simplified. The president of the United States in the name of the congress takes pleasure in presenting. The medal of honor to. Lance corporal William Kyle carpenter United States Marine Corps. For conspicuous gallantry and -- duty at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an automatic rifleman with company and a second battalion ninth Marines regimental combat team one. First marine division forward first marine expeditionary force forward in Helmand Province Afghanistan. In support of operation enduring freedom on 21 November 2010. Lance corporal carpenter was a member about the team's size coalition force comprised of two reinforced marine rifle squads. Partnered with an Afghan National Army squad. The platoon -- established patrol base Dakota two days earlier. In a small village in the -- -- district in order to disrupt enemy activity and provide security for the local Afghan population. Lance corporal carpenter and a fellow marine were Manning a roof top security position on the perimeter patrol base Dakota. When the enemy initiated a daylight attack with hand grenades one of which landed inside their sandbagged position. Without hesitation. And with complete disregard for his own safety. Lance corporal carpenter moved towards that her name in an attempt to shield his fellow marine from the deadly blast. When the grenade detonated his body absorbed the brunt of the blast severely wounding him but saving the life -- his fellow marine. By his undaunted courage -- fighting spirit and unwavering devotion to duty in the face is almost certain death. Lance corporal carpenter reflected great credit upon himself. And upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps. And the united states naval service. Let us -- Gracious -- -- ceremony serve as a reminder of the responsibility. That comes with receiving the -- gift of freedom. And as -- depart this hallowed hall. And return to our daily lives. We pray that you -- noble and empower us that when called upon. We would represent the resolute -- of corporal Kyle carpenter. And all of those who Wear the stars of valor. And live up to our responsibilities. Bringing honor to you and to this country. -- in the strength of your name we pray. -- -- That brings -- to the conclusion of the ceremony but not the reception and party. And so I want to thank everybody again for being here especially. -- wonderful family and and his parents. And I understand that the food here the white -- is pretty good. -- told tells Brothers that they should be challenge them. But that goes for everybody else -- well. And I think the drinks are free I don't know what is no -- still early in the afternoon. All right thank you very much are right let's big give one more round applause. For the latest. -- -- We've been watching me watching the medal of honor ceremony President Obama presenting the medal of honor. To corporal William Kyle carpenter for more on his story -- -- bring an ABC news consultant colonel Stephen Gagnon from Washington. Stephen -- watching this along with us we heard a little from President Obama about corporal -- readers -- backs. Tell us more about what he and his fellow Marines were up against that day and his heroic actions. Soros certainly was -- -- only when we I think sometimes we throw the the notion of heroism around quite lately like lately but in this case this is a true hero so. You think about what went on here worries he's he's been under attack has been out in combat for four days if not weeks -- getting shot -- they're in close combat. And all of a sudden he sees a grenade come up on the roof next to them and every marine in every soldier who fight in the in the infantry in in combat arms understands. That that that that Akron -- is gonna go off very quickly. And have to do something about either take cover or throw the grenade back and usually there's not enough time to do something about that grenades usually going to detonate. Quite shortly thereafter but he made this momentary decision -- this this this brave decision and two to throw his body at this grenade. Two effort to protect his buddies and you know I think everybody who's worn the uniform. Of any service them. Hopes that they would have reacted the same way but it's not the case. People react differently in different areas especially under combat stress of combat but I think the president was right what he was doing here was was was saving his his best friend. And so just truly truly extraordinary. And one of the lines that we -- today and heard. Soldiers and Marines who love their country more than -- corporate copper carpenter said he doesn't remember though jumping onto this live grenade is that common. When great situations like this come about it when someone performs such a brave act. It can be there can be sounds traumatic stress that blocks out me a terrible incident but it probably -- think about the impact of having grenade go off. Next to his body like that just terrible terrible wounds that did -- occurred. And you know goes to one of the things that the president alluded to and that is. You know if this had been even in the gulf war in 91 or or much less Vietnam or Korea. There's no doubt he would have -- would have died on the battlefield the ability to get. Our soldiers and Marines. Into. Trauma centers off the battlefield is one of the few good things that has come out of the of the Iran and Iraq the Iraq and Afghanistan wars where they can get -- -- trauma centers close by that that. That golden hour that you have to keep patients alive and they have actually in the battlefield they have full MRI machine so. The the level of of the technology and the capability. That is brought to battlefield in terms of medical emergency treatment is really extraordinary and it led to as we heard. Even though he died twice or three times Indiana couple months it led to this this wonderful story today. And certainly during that ceremony the president talked about how doctors had described his injuries -- one doctor said that he was injured from the top of its head. To his feet the president also underscoring carpenter was of course. Recognized for his bravery that day but also recognized for his valor. During this recovery spending to a -- -- in the hospital some forty surgeries also crediting -- doctors for helping those who served. And being able to survive -- an idea he's the eighth medal. Of honor recipient from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do you think that there will be more medals given to soldiers and Marines from those wars. I think so yes but I hope not. You know that the medal of honor is such a high distinction. That it's oftentimes given posthumously and so the fact that he survived he probably would have been awarded the medal of honor if he would not survived. But the fact that he survived is part of the inspiring story. So it's a very small fraternity. -- think about -- had. Significant combat for almost thirteen years -- -- major theaters and to have eight medals of honor tells you a little bit about how serious that fighting was that. These these -- extraordinary heroism and bravery. Went down and and these in these young men have been -- recognized for that some who survived. Some who didn't but it's a very interesting. Fraternity and all the medal of honor the winners that are still alive going back probably the Korean War don't think we have any more. More war -- but from the Korean War from the Vietnam War. Everybody since then it's warned that metal water -- this medal of honor society heard that the president talking about. And -- it really is the most elite of of right now it's a fraternity because we don't have any women who are medal of honor winners yet but it's a very very tight note. Knit group. You have a young man here -- a college student who has just become. That he. He is holding -- the weight of American honor on his shoulders it's not something that he probably wanted. But he has to be recently responsible. -- wearer and and and he has to be the face of the medal of -- and so their people who've gone before him were medal of honor winners who will take care of them. Who will mentor him. Who will keep them out of trouble who will insure that the sanctity and dignity and the the meaning of the medal of honor continues to two to shine bright. And that and that he continues to be a good good Steward of that -- And Stephen we saw the president. Putting the metal -- around. Kyle's snack the medal of honor -- recipients actually received two battles explain why that is. But I want you won one is the one -- never wanna -- than the other one as the one that it's okay that that if you lose because you got a spare. But it's it's obviously something that's that's it's almost like. That the -- -- Stanley Cup for the World Cup or or a diamond Tierra is is handled it's something that's. That cannot be counterfeited there -- people who've tried it. But it is a it is very they're here few of -- meant -- as you can imagine. And it is it is guarded like like a crown jewel and so you know I'll lose one but just in case they give -- -- -- again -- thank you for joining us. This has been an ABC news digital live event you can keep up with the story in real time and download the ABC news out. And star this story for exclusive updates on the go for now I'm Michelle Franzen in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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