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Medal of Honor recipients arrive in DMV to hero's welcome

Reagan National Airport. Photo by Jay Korff/7News
Reagan National Airport. Photo by Jay Korff/7News
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Reporter's Notebook: the Medal of Honor is the most prestigious award given for American military valor. Four honorees received a hero’s welcome when they arrived in the DC area following a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the new National Medal of Honor Museum being built in Texas.

Passengers at Reagan National Airport are accustomed to seeing military dignitaries from time to time. But on a maiden flight, aboard a special plane, were a select few men who braved tyranny’s battlefield to ensure our freedom. Men awarded the most prestigious honor bestowed upon American military heroes: the Medal of Honor.

Major General Patrick Brady says, “It’s not going to be a museum that exalts people. It’s going to be a museum that exalts the values that moves those people: courage, sacrifice, and patriotism.”

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Aboard this flight were Major General Patrick Brady, Corporal Kyle Carpenter, Lieutenant Colonel William Swenson, and Captain Florent Groberg. They arrived Friday night following a day of pageantry participating in the groundbreaking for the National Medal of Honor Museum set to open in 2024 in Arlington, Texas.

Only hours later, those heroes arrived in DC to meet with military leaders and White House officials. They flew in a newly designed American Airlines plane dubbed Flagship Valor. Their trip along the tarmac included a stunning water cannon salute. And a large crowd gathered at the gate for their arrival.

We chatted with Major General Brady and Corporal Carpenter. Brady telling us, “I was an helicopter ambulance pilot in Vietnam and our job was the pick up the wounded from the battlefield.”

According to history, Brady saved more than 50 seriously wounded men in a single day while navigating heavy fog and even heavier enemy gunfire during the Vietnam War.

“Veterans, people like me believe that life has no meaning unless it’s lived for future generations, adds Brady.

Carpenter adds, “We all know what it feels like to be knocked down. We all know what it feels like to not know if we can’t get back up. But you can and we do.”

Carpenter literally fell on a grenade to save a fellow Marine in Afghanistan. Forty surgeries later, he’s here to remind the world that winning the Medal of Honor isn’t nearly as important as what you do after you get the medal. Their mission now: to inspire others that integrity, courage, and sacrifice are ideals we all can aspire to.

“Anybody can step up to be a hero when those around them are in a time of need," says Carpenter.

Major General Patrick Brady's citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, Maj. BRADY distinguished himself while serving in the Republic of Vietnam commanding a UH-1H ambulance helicopter, volunteered to rescue wounded men from a site in enemy held territory which was reported to be heavily defended and to be blanketed by fog. To reach the site he descended through heavy fog and smoke and hovered slowly along a valley trail, turning his ship sideward to blow away the fog with the backwash from his rotor blades. Despite the unchallenged, close-range enemy fire, he found the dangerously small site, where he successfully landed and evacuated 2 badly wounded South Vietnamese soldiers. He was then called to another area completely covered by dense fog where American casualties lay only 50 meters from the enemy. Two aircraft had previously been shot down and others had made unsuccessful attempts to reach this site earlier in the day. With unmatched skill and extraordinary courage, Maj. BRADY made 4 flights to this embattled landing zone and successfully rescued all the wounded. On his third mission of the day Maj. Brady once again landed at a site surrounded by the enemy. The friendly ground force, pinned down by enemy fire, had been unable to reach and secure the landing zone. Although his aircraft had been badly damaged and his controls partially shot away during his initial entry into this area, he returned minutes later and rescued the remaining injured. Shortly thereafter, obtaining a replacement aircraft, Maj. BRADY was requested to land in an enemy minefield where a platoon of American soldiers was trapped. A mine detonated near his helicopter, wounding 2 crew members and damaging his ship. In spite of this, he managed to fly 6 severely injured patients to medical aid. Throughout that day Maj. BRADY utilized 3 helicopters to evacuate a total of 51 seriously wounded men, many of whom would have perished without prompt medical treatment. Maj. BRADY'S bravery was in the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

Corporal Kyle Carpenter's citation reads:

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The president of the United States, in the name of the congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lance Corporal William "Kyle" Carpenter, United States Marine Corps, For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an Automatic Rifleman with Company F, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division (Forward), 1 Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on 21 November 2010. Lance Corporal Carpenter was a member of a platoon-sized coalition force, comprised of two reinforced Marine squads partnered with an Afghan National Army squad. The platoon had established Patrol Base Dakota two days earlier in a small village in the Marjah District in order to disrupt enemy activity and provide security for the local Afghan population. Lance Corporal Carpenter and a fellow Marine were manning a rooftop security position on the perimeter of Patrol Base Dakota when the enemy initiated a daylight attack with hand grenades, one of which landed inside their sandbagged position. Without hesitation, and with complete disregard for his own safety, Lance Corporal Carpenter moved toward the grenade in an attempt to shield his fellow Marine from the deadly blast. When the grenade detonated, his body absorbed the brunt of the blast, severely wounding him, but saving the life of his fellow Marine. By his undaunted courage, bold fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of almost certain death, Lance Corporal Carpenter reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

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