Medal of Honor recipients Carpenter, Kellogg inspire — 40 years apart

Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter speaks at the Marine Corps Marathon press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2014.


By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: July 24, 2015

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The two Marines who met at Pearl Harbor on Wednesday both made the decision to take the brunt of grenade blasts with their bodies, saving the lives of others in the process.

Staff Sgt. Allan Kellogg threw himself onto a grenade in a muddy rice paddy in 1970 in Vietnam.

In Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 2010, Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter positioned himself between a grenade and a fellow Marine to shield him from the blast.

Forty years separated their actions — earning each the Medal of Honor — but their selflessness and humility are one and the same.

“Trying to save people — that’s all that counts,” said Kellogg, 72, a retired sergeant major who lives in Kailua.

The pair met up under much better circumstances: Hilton Grand Vacations provided a weeklong stay on Oahu for Carpenter, now 25, his mom and dad, and his 19-year-old twin brothers.

On Wednesday the Honolulu Navy League hosted a reception for the South Caro­lina family at the Pacific Fleet boathouse, and Carpenter continued to inspire the way he has in speaking to people around the country.

The now-retired Marine corporal received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in June 2014.

“My family and I are here, and we are just so thankful and appreciative for everything,” Carpenter said. “It’s a recurring theme, that I don’t feel like I deserve to be treated to an amazing week in Hawaii, but we’re here and we’ve got nothing but the biggest smiles.”

It’s been a long road for Carpenter. His right arm was damaged, he lost sight in one eye and dirt was blasted so deeply into his face that it created tattoolike marks, bearing visible witness to his injuries.

On Nov. 21, 2010, Carpenter and Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio, both with the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, were on a sandbagged rooftop in Afghanistan when a grenade landed nearby.

Carpenter “positioned himself between the grenade and his fellow Marine in an attempt to shield Eufrazio from its blast,” the summary of action states. Carpenter woke up five weeks later in Walter Reed National Medical Center.

His heart and lungs had stopped after the blast. A depressed skull fracture required brain surgery, and his jaw was shattered, among other injuries.

“I just tell people that three years in the hospital is not an ideal way to spend your time,” Carpenter said. But now he’s been given a “second chance at life, and I try to go out there and I try to live it for those that can’t — those that didn’t make it home.”

The University of South Carolina student didn’t wear his Medal of Honor. In fact, he left it on a table for people to see and touch because “it’s just as much yours,” he said at the reception. The medal “represents freedom,” he said, adding, “It represents our great country.”

Carpenter’s mom, Robin, said her son’s “amazing attitude has helped our family so much.”

“Because, like my husband says all the time, we are the ones that should be holding him up and supporting him and encouraging him, and really, it’s been the opposite,” Robin Carpenter said. “If it was not for his (positive) attitude, we would have crumbled a long time ago.”

A Hilton sales manager, David Colton, had heard of Carpenter’s service, “and he came up with the idea: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Hilton Grand Vacations could welcome Kyle and his family to just enjoy a vacation in Hawaii?” said spokeswoman Elena Norman.

The Carpenter family, which is leaving Saturday, has been staying at Hilton Hawaiian Village. Family members went deep-sea fishing, hiked Diamond Head and visited the USS Arizona Memorial, among other activities.

Kyle Carpenter has become something of an inspirational speaker, and has 365,000 followers on Instagram @chiksdigscars.

But the history buff, who said it was his dream to see the Arizona Memorial, was left at a loss for words when a flag that flew over the memorial was given to him by the Navy.

“That’s incredible,” he said. “Well, maybe for the first time, I’m speechless.”

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Allan Kellogg