President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, to Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter for his bravery and heroism during an intense battle in the Kamdesh Outpost district in Afghanistan.
He’s the fifth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nearly 300 insurgents ambushed the outpost Oct. 3, 2009, wounding more than two dozen Americans. Carter put his own life in danger by carrying his fellow soldier Spc. Stephan L. Mace to safety facing open fire.
“It was chaos – a blizzard of bullets and steel into which Ty ran not once or twice or even a few times, but perhaps 10 times and, in doing so, he displayed the essence of true heroism: not the urge to surpass all others at whatever costs, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost,” the president said at a White House ceremony Monday.
“I first found out about the nomination when I was in Afghanistan,” says Carter. “When the call came in they said will you accept a phone call from the president of the United States? I said sure. So I spoke to the president. He first thanked me for my service. He said he approved the Medal of Honor and we talked about my family and the kids,” says Carter.
When Carter first heard rumors about nomination, he was coping with PTSD. “You are embarrassed of your emotion. You are embarrassed to ask for help,” says Carter. “You feel like it will pass or it will go away, even if it’s something minor and you think that you don’t need help. Eventually, it starts getting worse, your quality of life is less, you react to things that you would not normally react to.”
President Obama acknowledged Carter’s struggles with PTSD as well. “I want to recognize his courage in the other battle he has fought,” the president said. “Ty has spoken openly, with honesty and extraordinary eloquence, about his struggle with post-traumatic stress, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the anxiety, the heartache that makes it sometimes almost impossible to get through a day.”
In his transition in the Army, Carter now helps other soldiers cope with PTSD. “It’s a wound that needs to be healed. And I am very confident in saying that, if you are having issues, it is OK to talk to somebody. It is your obligation to heal yourself.”
His focus isn’t training soldiers anymore but preparing them for life after combat. “The post traumatic stress, taking care of the wounded soldiers, possible helping out other gold-star families cope with the loss of their loved one. The fact that I’m sitting talking to you right now is me doing everything that I can to let other soldiers know that it will be OK. All you have to do is ask for help,” says Carter.
For Carter, this recognition is a way to let the public know what soldiers do. “The award carries a tremendous weight and responsibility. This award isn’t for you but it’s a symbol that shows true faith to what the soldiers did that day.”
How does it feel to be called a hero?
“I don’t feel comfortable being called a hero. I don’t think that the stuff that I did is any different than anybody else would have done in my position. There were heroes that day everywhere. So many acts of bravery… the true heroes are the other soldiers that were there that day and their family members that sacrifice so much to ensure that the United States of America remains a free country. Because once a soldier has fallen, their job is done, they have served. It’s the families that have to continue on with their loss.”
ABC News’ Producers Jordyn Phelps and Angel Canales contributed to this story. DC camera crew, Tom D’Annibale and John Knot. Editor, Arthur Niemynski.
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