Many words were offered Wednesday to honor and thank the families of two South Carolina soldiers who died while serving in Afghanistan in the past year. But for Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, there were no words fit for the occasion.
“‘Thank you’ is definitely not enough,” said the medically retired Marine, who will be awarded the Medal of Honor next month. “To be in front of Gold Star families – they gave so much more than I did. I’m very honored and humbled to be in front of you, and I thank both of your families for contributing to the freedom of this country.
“It’s because of your loved ones that this country’s where it is.
U.S. Army Spc. Embert Alt and Army Capt. James Edward “Ed” Chaffin made sacrifices for their country that cost them their lives. Carpenter’s sacrifice saved the life of a friend and fellow Marine.
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All three heroes and their families were honored Wednesday at the annual Fallen Soldiers luncheon in Columbia.
South Carolina has lost 114 servicemen, servicewomen and civilians serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since January 2002. Alt and Chaffin are the most recent to sacrifice their lives.
“You don’t have to lose someone to know what it means to have that price paid for you,” Attorney General Alan Wilson told those gathered.
Chaffin, a U.S. Army paratrooper from West Columbia, had played football at Brookland-Cayce High School before being commissioned from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. On April 1 at age 27, he died as a result of a non-combat related incident in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Alt, of Beech Island, was 21 years old when she was killed by indirect fire in Bagram, Afghanistan, on June 18, 2013. It was her first tour of duty.
Her mother and family members smiled through tears as state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, presented them with tokens of honor.
“Ember and Ed were South Carolinians, and that makes them family,” state Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, told the soldiers’ families. “You, too, are our family, and we love you.”
Carpenter, 24, attended the ceremony as a guest of honor. He was badly wounded by a grenade blast on Nov. 21, 2010, in Marjah, Afghanistan, when he threw himself in front of fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio.
Ten American service members from the war in Afghanistan have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military award.
Massey commended Carpenter for his selfless bravery.
“Since combat operations began shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001, 2,184 American military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan,” he said. “That number would surely have been 2,185 if not for Kyle Carpenter.”