President Obama on Monday awarded the Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter, who hopes to use the award to help others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Carter, 33, has struggled with PTSD since a 2009 battle in eastern Afghanistan that cost eight fellow soldiers their lives. The Washington state resident is the fifth living recipient of the nation’s highest military honor for heroic actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In bestowing the medal at the White House, Obama hailed Carter’s gallantry in combat and “his courage in the other battle he has fought” — a reference to coping with PTSD. Obama said it was “absolutely critical . . . to put an end to any stigma” that prevents troops from getting treatment.
Carter, then a specialist, distinguished himself when more than 300 Afghan insurgents launched a coordinated attack at dawn on Oct. 3, 2009, in an effort to overrun Combat Outpost Keating, a vulnerable position surrounded by peaks of the Hindu Kush mountains in the remote Kamdesh district of Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. Of his 53 fellow 4th Infantry Division soldiers who defended the outpost that day, eight were killed and more than 25 were injured, according to the Army.
“Without regard to his own safety, Spc. Ty Michael Carter . . . resupplied ammunition to fighting positions, provided first aid to a battle buddy, killed enemy troops, and valiantly risked his own life to save a fellow Soldier who was injured and pinned down by overwhelming enemy fire,” the Army said in its medal citation.
Carter, who was wounded in the fighting, became the second survivor of that battle to receive the Medal of Honor. In February, Obama awarded the medal to Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha for actions in another part of the outpost. It was the first battle to produce two living Medal of Honor recipients since the 1967 Battle of Ap Bac during the Vietnam War.
What became known as the Battle of Kamdesh exposed flaws in the military’s counterinsurgency strategy and failures in addressing an increasingly untenable situation for isolated U.S. troops near the Pakistani border. A Pentagon review found that the outpost, which was closed immediately after the attack, should never have been established because it was too difficult to defend.
Carter braved fire from insurgents armed with recoilless rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, antiaircraft machine guns, mortars, sniper rifles and small arms as he repeatedly ran across open ground to deliver ammunition to comrades and to rescue a badly wounded soldier, Spec. Stephan L. Mace, 21, of Lovettsville.
Carter ran into “the blizzard of bullets and steel” not once or twice, “but perhaps 10 times,” Obama said.
Mace later died in surgery at a field hospital, and Carter blamed himself, believing that he had “failed” because he could not save the young specialist he had carried to safety.
Obama noted Monday that another survivor of the battle who struggled with PTSD, Spec. Edward W. Faulkner Jr., “eventually lost his own life back home.” Faulkner, 27, of Burlington, N.C., died in 2010 of an accidental methadone overdose, with PTSD a “contributing” condition, according to his death certificate.
Carter’s experiences led him to become active in helping veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars deal with PTSD. He is now stationed with the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in his home state.
In an article published on the Army’s Web site, Carter said that until the battle at Combat Outpost Keating, he believed “myths” that PTSD was not a real disorder but was “a reason for soldiers to get out of work.”
Now, he said, “I’m hoping that I can help people through what I have to say, what I’ve experienced, to help them go seek help, or else we’re going to have more out there who self-medicate and end up taking their own lives.”