MOH recipient Carpenter set for a long trip down to Marine Corps Marathon starting line

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Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter is seen through one of the ceremonial wreaths awarded to top finishers as he speaks at the Marine Corps Marathon press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2014. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
From Stripes.com
Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter is seen through one of the ceremonial wreaths awarded to top finishers as he speaks at the Marine Corps Marathon press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2014. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

MOH recipient Carpenter set for a long trip down to Marine Corps Marathon starting line

by: Carlos Bongioanni | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: October 25, 2014

WASHINGTON — Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter plans to drop in, literally, on Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon.

The medically retired Marine, who received the nation’s highest military honor at the White House in June, will parachute to the starting line in Arlington, Va., with 11 members of the FASTRAX professional skydiving team. According to the marathon press materials, Carpenter will be carrying a 7,800 square-foot American flag, which will be visible from perhaps 20 miles away.

RELATED: More Stars and Stripes coverage of the Medal of Honor

Once on the ground, he’ll shed his skydiving gear and have 10 to 15 minutes to take his place among the more than 30,000 other competitors expected to run the 39th annual marathon.

Carpenter, who suffered severe injuries after diving on a grenade to save the life of a fellow Marine in Afghanistan four years ago, has come a long way to be able to run at all, never mind a grueling 26.2-mile race.

While attending a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington on Friday, Carpenter said he ran the Marine Corps Marathon — his first-ever marathon — two years ago while still recuperating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

For nearly three years following the devastating Nov. 21, 2010 blast, Carpenter underwent dozens of operations. He had shrapnel removed from his head. and repairs were made on a collapsed lung, fractured fingers, and a right arm broken in more than 30 places. He received a new prosthetic eye, a new jaw, new teeth, and multiple skin grafts.

In that first marathon in 2012, Carpenter clocked an impressive 4:28:42 time.

He said he missed last year’s race because he had classes to attend at the University of South Carolina. This year, he decided to put his studies aside for a few hours to squeeze in the jump and the run before hitting the books later Sunday night to finish up a Geology research paper due Tuesday.

Carpenter said he’s not running to get the quickest time, but to be an example. He hopes his participation will send a message of hope to other severely-wounded servicemembers that life isn’t over after suffering debilitating injuries.

His message: “You can get injured and go through a lot and still come out on top. You can run a marathon or compete in things you want to, even if you have physical limitations or disabilities. If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

That’s not to say Carpenter’s pursuits come without a price. Aside from pushing himself to run 10 miles a day to train for the event, he said he’ll have to put aside his fear of heights to make the jump.

Carpenter said the second he was asked to do the jump, he agreed. “Now, I’m nervous, but … any time heights come up or I have an opportunity to do something that is going to scare me and make me wish I wasn’t so high, I’m going to do it just because I’m blessed to have this second chance at life, and I want to do everything I can to really feel like I’m living.”

bongioanni.carlos@stripes.com