President Obama today bestowed the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, praising his courageous actions during one of the most intense battles in Afghanistan and crediting him with speaking openly about the invisible wounds of war.
During an October 2009 ambush on the remote Combat Outpost Keating, Carter risked his life to resupply ammunition to his fellow soldiers and rescue an injured comrade, carrying him to safety through a hailstorm of enemy 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.
Eight Americans, including Spc. Stephan Mace, whom Carter carried out of harm’s way, lost their lives as nearly 300 insurgents attacked the outpost. More than two dozen Americans were wounded.
Many of those who survived, including Carter, still struggle with the emotional scars of that day.
“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.”
Like many troops, Carter didn’t believe in post-traumatic stress disorder until he fell victim to it himself.
“You are embarrassed of your emotion. You are embarrassed to ask for help,” Carter told ABC News. “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.”
Today, Carter works to help others suffering from PTSD.
“It’s a wound that needs to be healed,” he told ABC News. “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.”
The president today urged other service members to follow Carter’s example.
“Let me say it as clearly as I can to any of our troops or veterans who are watching and struggling,” Obama said. “Look at this man. Look at this soldier. Look at this warrior. He’s as tough as they come, and if he can find the courage and the strength to not only seek help but also to speak out about it, to take care of himself and to stay strong, then so can you. So can you.”
Carter is now the fifth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.