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Medal of Honor Winner Showed ‘Essence of True Heroism’ in Battle and With PTSD

August 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
President Barack Obama awarded Army Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter with the nation's highest military honor for his actions of bravery during a 2009 battle during the war in Afghanistan. Judy Woodruff offers excerpts from the Medal of Honor ceremony honoring Carter's courage in battle and in facing PTSD in his return home.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama presented Army Staff Sergeant Ty Michael Carter with the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.

He said Carter displayed the essence of true heroism for his actions in the battle at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan on October 3, 2009.

Here are some excerpts from today’s ceremony.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a historic day — the first time in nearly half-a-century, since the Vietnam War, that we’ve been able to present the Medal of Honor to two survivors of the same battle.

Indeed, when we paid tribute to Clint Romesha earlier this year, we recalled how he and his team provided the cover that allowed three wounded Americans — pinned down in a Humvee — to make their escape. The medal we present today, the soldier that we honor — Ty Carter — is the story of what happened in that Humvee. It’s the story of what our troops do for each other.

And as dawn broke that October morning, with Ty and most of our troops still in their bunks, their worst fears became a reality.

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Fifty-three American soldiers were suddenly surrounded by more than 300 Taliban fighters. The outpost was being slammed from every direction — machine gunfire, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, sniper fire. It was chaos — the blizzard of bullets and steel — into which Ty ran, not once or twice, or even a few times, but perhaps 10 times.

The ferocious fire forced them inside. And so it was that five American soldiers — including Ty and Specialist Stephan Mace — found themselves trapped in that Humvee, the tires flat, RPGs pouring in, peppering them with shrapnel, threatening to break through the armor of their vehicle.

And, worst of all, Taliban fighters were penetrating the camp. The choice, it seemed, was simple — stay and die, or make a run for it.

And then they saw him — their buddy Stephan — on the ground, wounded, about 30 yards away.

And if you are left with just one image from that day, let it be this: Ty Carter bending over, picking up Stephan Mace, cradling him in his arms, and carrying him — through all those bullets — and getting him back to that Humvee.

And the battle was still not over, so Ty returned to the fight and helped to rally his troop as they fought, yard by yard. They pushed the enemy back. Our soldiers retook their camp.

Now, Ty says, “This award is not mine alone. The battle that day,” he will say, “was one team in one fight, and everyone did what we could do to keep each other alive.”

And some of these men are with us again.

As we honor Ty’s courage on the battlefield, I want to recognize his courage in the other battle he has fought. Ty has spoken openly — with honesty and extraordinary eloquence — about his struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress — the flashbacks, the nightmares, the anxiety, the heartache that makes it sometimes almost impossible to get through a day.

So let me say it as clearly as I can to any of our troops or veterans who are watching and struggling: Look at this man. Look at this soldier. Look at this warrior. He’s as tough as they come. And if he can find the courage and the strength, to not only seek help, but also to speak out about it, to take care of himself and to stay strong, then so can you. So can you.

As we prepare for the reading of the citation, I will ask you, Ty, to never forget the difference that you made on that day. Because you helped turn back that attack, soldiers are alive today — like your battle buddy in that Humvee, Brad Larson, who told us, “I owe Ty my life.”

Because you had the urge to serve others at whatever cost, so many Army families could welcome home their own sons.

God bless you, Ty Carter, and the soldiers of the Black Knight Troop. God bless all our men and women in uniform. God bless the United States of America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president also recognized the other soldiers of Combat Outpost Keating, remembering the fallen from that battle and honoring their families.