On that day, Carter proved himself time and time again without regard to his own safety. When his fellow Soldiers came under attack from a battalion-sized enemy force, Carter ran repeatedly through heavy enemy fire to resupply ammunition to fighting positions. Armed only with only an M4 carbine, he beat back the assault force for several hours. Throughout the battle, Carter exposed himself to the enemy no fewer than six times as he crossed treacherous ground.
Here are 12 facts about Carter, including details about his heroic actions:
1. He’s the fifth living Soldier to receive the Medal of Honor based on service in Iraq or Afghanistan
Carter will become the 12th recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
2. He was in PT gear when his unit came under attack
As Carter tells KVI, “I was wearing my PT shorts, my tan t-shirt. I threw on my boots and my body armor and grabbed my rifle and headed out.” After Carter emerged from his barracks, he sprinted 100 meters across open ground, under concentrated fire, to join his comrades at the southern Battle Position. Upon arriving at the battle position, Carter gave two bags of M240 ammo to Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, and most of his M4 magazines to Spc. Stephan L. Mace.
3. He previously served as a Devil Dog in the U.S. Marine Corps
Carter enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Oct. 13, 1998, and attended the Marine Corps Combat Engineer School. He later served in Okinawa, Japan, as an intelligence clerk. Carter showed promise in weapons’ marksmanship and was sent to Primary Marksmanship Instructor School in 1999. He served two short training deployments; one to San Clemente Island, Calif., and the other to Egypt, for Operation Bright Star. Carter was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps Oct. 12, 2002.
Reflecting on his decision to join the Marine Corps, Carter said wanted to change his life, to live “honestly and honorably. Plus … I could shoot guns and blow stuff up. After joining the service and being a Marine, the feeling of purpose was great.”
4. He is an excellent swimmer
Carter and his siblings took swimming lessons as kids. Those swimming skills were almost put to good use at Combat Outpost Keating. During the battle, Carter and Sgt. Bradley Larson were cut off from the rest of their troop. For hours they believed everyone else had perished. Instead of panicking, they decided to lay low until nightfall and hatched a plan to sneak to the river that flowed on one side of the combat outpost and swim to safety. Before they needed to make it to the river, Carter got permission to seek out a radio so they could attempt to re-establish communication with those still alive. He found a radio that had likely been dropped by fallen Soldier Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos. With the radio, Carter and Larson were able to connect with their operations center which led to the coordinated ex-fill of Larson, Carter and a critically wounded Soldier, Spc. Stephan Mace.
Carter is studying to become a certified scuba diver.
5. In the heat of battle, he would not accept defeat or leave a fallen comrade
“At no point in time did we ever have it in our head that we were going to give up or surrender. The training that we received and the trust and confidence that I had in my fellow Soldiers meant that no matter what happened, we would fight until there was nobody [insurgents] left,” Carter said at a press conference.
Despite being wounded, Carter disregarded his own personal safety to assist a battle buddy, Spc. Stephan Mace. Carter administered life-extending first aid to Mace and carried him through withering enemy fire.
6. The Purple Heart is among his many military awards and decorations
Carter’s military awards include the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal (with 4 oak leaf clusters), the Army Achievement Medal (with 2 oak leaf clusters), the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Navy/Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with two campaign stars), the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (with numeral 2 device), the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Combat Action Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, and the Air Assault Badge. He is also authorized to wear the Valorous Unit Award and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
7. He honors the legacy of his fallen comrades
The names of all eight Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice – Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, Sgt. Christopher T. Griffin, Sgt. Joshua Mitchell Hardt, Sgt. Joshua John Kirk, Spc. Stephan Lee Mace, Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, Sgt. Michael P. Scusa, and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson – are engraved on a steel band that Carter wears on his right wrist. In a press conference held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Carter said, “This award is not mine alone. I am grateful for the service of all the Soldiers who I fought with that day and would like to take a moment to express my sincere condolences to the families of those who did not make it back from the battle.”
8. His views of post-traumatic stress changed in the aftermath of Keating
Carter talks openly about his struggles with post-traumatic stress. As he told Soldiers Live, “I was totally believing the myths [about post-traumatic stress] until it happened to me, and now I’m hoping that I can help people through what I have to say, what I’ve experienced, to help them go seek help, or else we’re going to have more (Soldiers) out there who self-medicate and end up taking their own lives.”
If it hadn’t been for his platoon sergeant, 1st Sgt. (Ret.) Jonathan Hill, 4th Infantry Division’s brigade psychologist, Capt. Katie Kopp, and other behavioral health professionals who were paying attention and cared enough to get him help, Carter said that he wouldn’t be here today.
9. His dream is to open a shooting range dedicated to teaching people marksmanship skills as well as weapon safety.
Carter’s brother was killed when an acquaintance wielded a loaded weapon that discharged unexpectedly. This tragedy shaped his passion for understanding weapons and for teaching others how to use them safely.
Carter dreams of one day owning a state-of-the-art weapons training facility where people can come from all over the world to learn advanced marksmanship and safety skills.
10. He was honored by the USO for his actions at Keating
During their 50th Annual Gala on Dec. 7, 2011, the United Service Organizations Inc., or USO, presented its George Van Cleave Military Leadership Award to Carter for distinguishing himself while serving as a scout in Afghanistan. The USO presents the award every year to one service member from each military branch for exceptional service.
11. He is huge country music fan.
Carter’s favorite musicians are Toby Keith and Brad Paisley. He would love to meet them one day.
12. He is a Soldier for Life
Carter recently re-enlisted, and with his wife Shannon’s encouragement, hopes to serve at least 20 years.
To see Staff Sgt. Carter receive the Medal of Honor, watch a video recap below. You can also read President Barack Obama’s remarks as delivered from the East Room of the White House here.