The Beautiful Burden

I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunities and experiences available to me since receiving the Medal of Honor on June 19, 2014. From David Letterman to throwing the first pitch at Major League games to skydiving with the Red Bull team and being a part of a Starbucks commercial, I am truly thankful.

I often get asked the seemingly simple question, “What is it like to be a Medal of Honor recipient?” My response, though, is deep and difficult to answer.

The past four years have been fast-paced and surreal — to say the least. At the time, I was a sophomore at the University of South Carolina when I received the call from President Barack Obama.

About a week before I was given the exact date and time the President would be calling me. I knew this would be a special moment in my life and I wanted my family there to experience it with me. I left class that morning and drove the 30 minutes to my family home to meet my parents and brothers who had taken off work and been pulled out of school. In the minutes before the call, my brothers were guessing what the surprise would be and excitedly hoped for a new family dog.

The phone rang. I was greeted by a stern female voice confirming who I was, making a brief introduction and then turning the call over to the President of the United States.

He informed me that, based upon a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense, he was honored to award me the Medal of Honor. In that brief moment in my family’s living room my life changed forever. I was about to become the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient.

After the call ended I hung up and went back to class.

It’s difficult to describe what happened when the news broke. It was almost bizarre. I hadn’t changed overnight — but the world around me had.

Thankfully, I had an incredible team of Marines who had worked for months to prepare my family and me for this moment. It was overwhelming as voicemails from friends and family were replaced with story-hungry reporters and people claiming to be my ‘long-lost’ cousins.

After Psychology class one day I turned my phone on to more than 250,000 new Instagram followers — in just 50-minutes.

Every day since the announcement has been filled with amazing, tough and life-changing experiences. I have learned a lot about myself, those around me, the crazy world we live in and, most importantly, who I am as a Medal of Honor recipient. I am not defined by the Medal. Being awarded the Medal of Honor is one of many things in my life that have helped shape and contribute to who I am today.

When people ask what it’s like to be a recipient or to have the Medal draped around my neck, my answer is “heavy.”

I am so thankful for the platform being a recipient has given me. I am able to connect with those who are struggling physically, mentally and emotionally. I am able to find comfort in the fact that my story and the stories of those who fought beside me will never be forgotten.

The Medal represents all who have raised their right hand and sworn to give their life, if called upon, for their country. It represents those who never made it home to receive the thanks and recognition they deserve. Those who charged the beaches in World War II, froze while fighting in Korea, bled out across the lush fields of Vietnam and those who never made it home because of another deadly blast in the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan. Those who were tortured for years in prisoner of war camps and those who still rest in distant lands forever remaining ‘missing in action.’ The Medal represents the parents, husbands, wives and loved ones who have heard the dreaded knock on their front doors to find a telegram or service member delivering the unbearable news. It represents the children who will wake up every day without their brave mother or father making them breakfast or sending them off to school because they did what so few could.

This is where the true weight of the Medal is carried.

Being a Medal of Honor recipient is a beautiful burden — but one I am honored to carry.

29 Comments

  • Cait
    Posted June 20, 2018 12:29 am 0Likes

    The uniform and medals you wear represent pain, sacrifice, and perseverance. But they also represents history and an ever growing family. I know there are families that have remained whole because of what you did, and your bravery can never be taught, but a gift from God. Thank you for what you did for our country and for your brothers and all that you continue to do.

  • Joey Bastedo
    Posted June 20, 2018 12:35 am 0Likes

    I remember hanging out in your apartment in Olympia and asking you that very question. “What is it like?” And your answer was so moving it brought tears to my eyes. As I prepare for another deployment, I think about all you have been through and the sacrifice you made, but also how far you’ve come and the your ability to make a positive impact in the kives of the people around you. Thank you for your service, and your support of all the troops. You inspire all of us and remind us why we do what we do. Thank you brother and keep up the great work.

  • Annmarie Gioia
    Posted June 20, 2018 12:40 am 0Likes

    Kyle, hoping you remember me as I’m the girl that worked on your NYSE bell ringing to recognize your receiving the Medal of Honor. We even managed to do a few interviews too. I’ll never forget that day and the honor I had of promoting what was truly one of the most special events for us at the NYSE. You’ve inspired me ever since so keep being you and thank you again for your service and your living life filled with purpose each day

  • Tom
    Posted June 20, 2018 12:47 am 0Likes

    I can only imagine the burden of wearing that around your neck and also on your shoulders. I thank you for your sacrifice and patriotism to serve our country and not think twice to try to keep anyone safe and putting yourself at risk instantaneously. I am glad that a marine is still with us today and deserves everything good that comes your way even knowing that you would give up that honor to probably bring back one more soldier. I wish I could have served my full active duty before being medically discharged without a scar or anything showing my time but when I see the ultimate sacrifice given by others I appreciate that I have had the freedoms and other opportunities to flow another path. God bless you brother and your family and thank you for your service and sacrifice for our country and our freedom.

    Tom

  • Chris Chapman
    Posted June 20, 2018 12:50 am 0Likes

    Beautifully said, it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you!

  • Gene Wells
    Posted June 20, 2018 12:53 am 0Likes

    It would absolutely be my honor to render you a salute Marine! Semper Fi.

    Very respectfully,
    ETC(SS) Gene Wells, USN (Ret.)

  • Todd Everton
    Posted June 20, 2018 1:02 am 0Likes

    God Bless you Kyle, & my heart felt gratitude for you stepping up & answering the call to serve our great country. I chickened out on that call, but both of my boys stepped up. My oldest is in the Air Force, & my younger son is at ITB becoming a badass Marine! Thanks from a Hoosier gamecock fan!

  • Amy
    Posted June 20, 2018 1:04 am 0Likes

    Thank you for your service and sacrifice you have made for me and this country. My dad was in the army, along with his dad, my grandfather, who was a purple heart recipient. My grandfather’s brother was killed during WWII. My other grandfather served in the Navy and have several uncles and cousins who have also served. Thank you isn’t enough to say for everything that you have done.

  • Tom Zadera
    Posted June 20, 2018 1:04 am 0Likes

    You are everything that is good and strong about our generation. Honestly when I feel down I somehow think of your story and it makes me both proud and determined. I hope you are able to enjoy everyday until you see your last. God speed!

  • Mike
    Posted June 20, 2018 1:22 am 0Likes

    William Kyle Carpenter,
    Thank you for the post. I felt chills as I read it. Thank you for your past and current continued service. Also, thanks to all who have, and currently serve our country. God bless them all 🇺🇸.

  • Michele Coccaro
    Posted June 20, 2018 1:35 am 0Likes

    God bless you today and always!!! That was so beautifully written! Thank you for your service send to be a huge understatement!

  • Shaun-Mychelle Hairston
    Posted June 20, 2018 1:43 am 0Likes

    This was beautifully and emotionally written. I always wondered what it would be like to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Like most Marines, when I deployed I imagined I’d do something heroic or life changing, something to leave my mark on our beautiful Corps and something to motivate Marines to come. I didn’t. But I love reading your stories and following your page hearing about all the great things you’ve done. It’s inspiring to see all your achievements and witness the good you have in your heart. Thank you for sharing this story with us. Semper Fidelis.

  • 2x awarded PFC bales
    Posted June 20, 2018 2:31 am 0Likes

    You are a very humble Marine. Even though neither you nor your brother will ever be the same I know both sets of parents are thankful for your sacrifice and your recovery. Keeping walking forward brother

  • Tim Reiter
    Posted June 20, 2018 2:41 am 0Likes

    Sir,

    You are a fine young man, among the millions of fine young men & women, who have selfishly served the United States of America.
    These persons wrote the government a blank check, in the amount, up to & including, their lives.
    You showed, by your selfless actions, that you were serious about your dedication & commitment to that.
    I don’t know you, but I am honored to know people who I believe, are persons like you.
    As a fellow veteran, I am proud to call you my brother. I am so honored to have many brothers & sisters from my two times of service in the Army.
    I lost a good friend in the Gulf War who I always knew as a giving person. He gave his life for his country & what he believed in, but we know, he did it for that soldier on his left & on his right.
    You offered yourself in the same way, but God decided that the noble sacrifice that you laid upon the altar of freedom, need not be the ultimate sacrifice.
    In closing, may God bless you, heal you & grant you peace.

    (continued)

  • Kels
    Posted June 20, 2018 2:42 am 0Likes

    Great read. Beautiful, honest and real!
    Semper Fi

  • Fredy Llanos
    Posted June 20, 2018 2:44 am 0Likes

    Well said, brother. Semper Fi.

  • Charlie
    Posted June 20, 2018 3:00 am 0Likes

    Cannot thank you enough for your service and sacrifice! It’s because of people like you that this country is so great! I’m proud to be an American!!!

  • Bryan Byrne
    Posted June 20, 2018 3:04 am 0Likes

    Kyle,
    I served over 29 years ago with the Bravo Co 1/1 Raiders. I have followed your journey closely since you were awarded and I can say I’m proud to call you one of my brothers. You’ve honored us all and those that have fallen before us that gave us the opportunity to become Marines. Keep being the young man you’ve grown to become before and since you’ve earned that medal.
    Semper Fi, brother.

    Bryan Byrne.

  • Tiffanee
    Posted June 20, 2018 3:46 am 0Likes

    My heart goes out to you Kyle…my son recently received an honorary disability discharge from the USMC after 5 yrs as 0311..THANK YOU for your sacrifice and service. From this USMC MOM in Arkansas
    OOHRAH 💪🏻🇺🇸💗

  • James Shavers
    Posted June 20, 2018 4:10 am 0Likes

    Hey Kyle my name is James Shavers friends call me J.D. Iam a transport officer at the Dekalb County Sheriffs Office. I would just like to thank you for serving this country and for fighting for my freedom. Every time I see or ready a post about you and your incredible story it inspires me to be a better more humble man. You really are the symbol of what makes America a great Nation thank you so much for your courage and wisdom god bless you brother.

  • Amanda Garcia
    Posted June 20, 2018 4:21 am 0Likes

    So beautifully put. Your words are inspirational, raw and honest. I love that. Real life isn’t always awesome, but even the burdens can be beautiful. Thank you for everything you’ve done, on and off the battle field.

    With love, from a family of Veterans.

  • Colleen
    Posted June 20, 2018 4:24 am 0Likes

    I don’t have the words to express myself fully so i will simply say Thank You.

  • Elizabeth Bartz
    Posted June 20, 2018 4:51 am 0Likes

    You are a great inspiration to me in and out of the Marine Corps.

    Semper fi.

  • Whitney
    Posted June 20, 2018 6:15 am 0Likes

    Beautifully written. Thank you for your service and for wearing The Medal with such respect and honor. Wishing you a life of happiness!

  • Christian krempasky
    Posted June 20, 2018 8:20 am 0Likes

    Their aren’t adequate words that express my gratitude and forever indebtedness to you. Im afraid that the sacrifices both you and others like you have made on our behalf go beyond our ability or means to ever truly and fairly repay you. Suffice it to say I thank God for people like you.
    Again, thank you, and may God bless and watch over you, your family and your fellows service members always.

  • Ira G
    Posted June 20, 2018 10:43 am 0Likes

    Kyle,
    That is one of the most honest from the heart essays I have ever read. I cannot imagine the pride and burden you carry everyday being a MOH recipient but this helps a lot. Thank you!
    If ever in South Florida , I would be honored to buy you a drink.

  • Marc O
    Posted June 20, 2018 10:55 am 0Likes

    Nice words brother! Hope you get to relax a bit. Talk soon.
    Marc

  • Martha Hamilton
    Posted June 20, 2018 12:08 pm 0Likes

    WKC- what a beautifully written expression of the burden and privilege of wearing the Medal of Honor. What you have been through tears at my heart and soul, and yet, of all the people to have experienced the deepest hardships (physically, emotionally, and mentally) you sir, seem to be one who can continue to overcome the challenges, perhaps even struggling daily internally. You represent all that is good, with your humility, humor, realistic perspective and humor… and that darn cute smile (!). Your character of strength, compassion, persistence and resilience is incredible.You are loved and appreciated.

  • Judi Mahaffey
    Posted June 20, 2018 12:08 pm 0Likes

    You continue to amaze me with your continued service to your country and to the Marines.

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