(CNN) – William “Kyle” Carpenter lost most of his jaw and an eye when he fell on a grenade to shield a fellow Marine from the blast. His body shattered, one lung collapsed, Carpenter was nearly given up for dead after that 2010 Afghanistan firefight.
Then he spent 2½ years in a hospital as doctors worked to rebuild his body. But if you think he’s bitter, think again.
“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.
On Thursday, he became the eighth living veteran of U.S. combat in Iraq and Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award.
Carpenter was wounded in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on November 21, 2010, while serving as a machine gunner, according to the White House.
Carpenter and another Marine were manning a rooftop position during a firefight with Taliban insurgents when a hand grenade landed nearby, the Marine Corps said.
Carpenter rushed toward the grenade and his body took most of the blast, according to the Marine Corps. The other Marine, Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio, sustained damage to the frontal lobe of his brain from shrapnel. Until recently, his wounds rendered him unable to speak.
In a Defense Department video, Carpenter said he had to be revived while being evacuated by helicopter from the battle and was labeled dead on arrival at a field hospital. He later nearly died again at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he said.
“The enemy killed me. I came back, 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.
Carpenter, medically retired from the Marine Corps last year, is now a student at the University of South Carolina, the White House said.
Carpenter’s other awards include a Purple Heart Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon. Additional awards and decorations include the Navy Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one bronze star, North Atlantic Treaty.