On June 19, 2014, President Obama presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to Kyle Carpenter, 24. Mr. Carpenter was selected as a recipient because of his heroic actions in Afghanistan in 2010 when he threw himself on a grenade to save a fellow Marine. Kyle sustained significant injuries that are evident in his pictures and interviews. Kyle’s fortitude, maturity, and commitment to serving his country and being a good citizen are inspiring and impressive.
There is another aspect of his story that bears noting, especially given our recent Military and Veterans’ Families Implementation Academy – the important the role of Kyle Carpenter’s family. As you watch the attached video and hear his story, the role of his family in his recovery is impressive. Whether it’s his proud grandparents in their “My grandson is a Marine” tee shirts; his dad, who cried and struggled late at night when no one was looking; or his mother, whose love, energy, and support radiate throughout the video (you can see her wonderful smile in the background in the attached photo) – each member of Kyle’s family has stood behind and supported him throughout his service and his recovery.
As a mom, I could not help but be moved watching Mrs. Carpenter light up Kyle’s hospital room with cheers and smiles in the midst of his devastating injuries. Throughout the video his mom is there supporting him, speaking about her memories and serving as the keeper of his history, saving the letters, cards, photos, and even voicemail messages. His dad talks about the need he felt to be the strong one as they dealt with the news of Kyle’s injuries and throughout his recovery.
The story of the fear, anguish, and pain, that many mothers and fathers, and even grandparents endure, and the stories of the love, support, and care they provide are stories that are often overlooked. Many parents and other family members now play crucial roles in the reintegration of their children, and in many cases, must serve as the caregiver on a variety of levels. I recently met a mom who cared for her young grandchildren while her daughter and son-in-law were deployed. She talked about the joys of having her grandchildren with her but also of the incredible pressures that come with being responsible for and disciplining children who aren’t your own.
Watching Kyle’s mother, I could only hope that if needed, I could be there for my son the way she has been for her son. It also serves as an important reminder that as we continue our efforts to provide our service members and veterans the care that they deserve, that we also consider all of the family members who play their own crucial and challenging roles in service to our country. In caring for our service members and veterans, we must support and care for them as well!