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Fighting undid him in the Corps; as a soldier, it earned him the MoH

Aug. 12, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter, part of the White Platoon fire team, 8-1 Cavalry, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provides overwatch on a road near Dahla Dam, Afghanistan, in July 2012.
Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter, part of the White Platoon fire team, 8-1 Cavalry, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provides overwatch on a road near Dahla Dam, Afghanistan, in July 2012. (Courtesy Ty Carter)
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An Army staff sergeant who previously served in the Marine Corps will receive the Medal of Honor on Aug. 26, making him the second soldier to be honored with the nation’s highest valor award for actions during a fierce October 2009 battle in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter will be honored in a ceremony at the White House, officials there said. He also will be inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes on Aug. 27.

Carter, who was a scout assigned to B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, is credited with braving fierce enemy fire to treat and carry a fellow soldier to safety during one of the largest, most vicious battles against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

He will be the fifth living service member to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. Seven service members have posthumously been awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in those wars.

Carter’s troop-mate, former Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha, received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony Feb. 11.

Both men were part of a small American force at Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009, when an enemy force estimated to number more than 300 attacked the COP, intent on overrunning the outnumbered U.S. forces.

Eight Americans were killed and about two dozen others were wounded, but the soldiers defeated the enemy and saved the COP.

Carter, who said he is feeling “very nervous” about receiving the Medal of Honor, downplayed his actions.

“It wasn’t just me,” he said. “Everyone pulled through. They all performed excellently, bravely.

“I really wish there was some way that I could share the prestige and the honor of this medal with them, and not to mention the families of the fallen,” he said. “In the end, they probably deserve this medal more than I do because of the losses that they received.”

Several other soldiers at COP Keating that day have been honored for their actions. According to Army Times’ reporting and the book “The Outpost,” by journalist Jake Tapper, at least nine soldiers, including the platoon leader, were awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor.

The attack on COP Keating remains one of the deadliest attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Carter, 33, a married father of three, joined the Army in 2008. He is originally from Spokane, Wash.

He joined the Corps after high school but was busted down in rank for fighting, according to “The Outpost.” He then spent five years working “aimlessly” at a series of odd jobs and decided to rejoin the military. This time, however, he chose the Army because he figured “the Marines probably wouldn’t take him back,” Tapper wrote in his book.

Carter enlisted in the Corps on Oct. 13, 1998, and served as combat engineer, Marine officials said. He eventually served as a primary marksmanship instructor, as well. He left the Corps as a lance corporal on Oct. 12, 2002, according to his Army profile. His last duty station was 1st Force Service Support Group, at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Between his time in the Corps and the Army, Carter scrubbed the bottoms of yachts in the San Francisco Bay Area, worked as a projectionist at a movie theater in Antioch, Calif., and served as an armed security guard in Oakland, among other jobs, according to Tapper’s book.

Carter, now assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., still struggles with memories of the attack on Keating.

One of the most difficult things he has done was speak with the mother of Spc. Stephan Mace, the soldier Carter carried to safety but who later succumbed to his wounds.

“That was one of the harder parts, telling Mace’s mother that I’m sorry I didn’t get to him in time,” Carter said.

Carter also was one of the last people to see Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos and Staff Sgt. Vernon Martin alive.

“It’s bad to be the last one to see these men alive, to believe you failed somebody after doing everything you could,” Carter said, his voice choked with emotion.

But the families of those men have been very supportive, he said.

“They were very respectful and appreciative of the things I did and the things the soldiers did that day to help each other through that terrible day,” he said.

Carter suffered scrapes and bruises, a concussion, minor shrapnel wounds and hearing loss in his left ear. Psychologically, he continues to cope with post-traumatic stress, and he credits his platoon sergeant at the time, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Hill, for seeing almost immediately that he needed help.

The men had barely left COP Keating when Hill “saw there was a problem in me, something had changed in a bad way,” Carter said.

Hill escorted Carter to see Capt. Katie Kopp, a behavioral health specialist for the unit, and, together with the chaplain, they worked with Carter in Afghanistan and later back at Fort Carson, Colo. Carter continued to receive treatment when he moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“Because of them, I can function very well as a citizen and also continue to be a professional soldier,” Carter said. “The entire team and my leadership have helped me be where I am today.”

The help he received also enabled Carter to return to Afghanistan last year for a second deployment, this time to Kandahar province.

Carter is committed to the Army at least until 2018, and he is focusing on telling the story of the brothers he lost that day, he said.

Carter said he also wants to recognize the family of a ninth soldier, Pvt. Edward Faulkner Jr., who struggled with post-traumatic stress and died from an overdose after returning from Afghanistan.

“I’m just trying to do what I can to make sure the soldiers from COP Keating receive the recognition they deserve,” he said. “When I’m no longer needed to tell the story and assist in the remembering of the actions of Black Knight Troop and the men who fell, when that’s completed, I will be able to choose my direction after that.”

Staff writer Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

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