WASHINGTON — A Medal of Honor recipient who was seriously injured while saving a fellow service member’s life was one of the honorees at the inaugural American Portrait Gala on Sunday.
Kyle Carpenter, a Marine rifleman, was decorated this summer by President Barack Obama with the nation’s highest military award. He was among five honored at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The other honorees were baseball great Hank Aaron, songstress Aretha Franklin, fashion designer Carolina Herrera, and designer and artist Maya Lin.
The gala honored individuals whose portraits are in the museum’s collection because of their achievements and accomplishments.
Carpenter, who served in the Afghanistan War, was cited for facing down a grenade to save the life of a fellow Marine. The 26-year-old suffered grave injuries and spent three years recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
He’s now a junior international studies major at the University of South Carolina. He says the Paris attacks are a call for the world to unite against a common enemy.
“I can only hope that from what has happened in Paris people throughout the world realize ISIS is not slowing down,” Carpenter says. “They are more determined than ever.”
Carpenter’s stirring color portrait in the Smithsonian reveals bravery and determination despite his injuries. But the young, wounded hero wants people to see more than his face.
“I want them to see all Americans who have sacrificed not just from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Carpenter says.