Army Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter, the latest recipient of the nation's highest military honor, hopes to use the award to help others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which has afflicted him since a 2009 battle in eastern Afghanistan that cost eight fellow soldiers their lives.
President Barack Obama awarded Carter the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony Monday, making the 33-year-old from Washington state the fifth living recipient of the decoration for heroic actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In bestowing the medal, Obama hailed not only Carter's gallantry in combat but "his courage in the other battle he has fought"— speaking out about his ordeal with post-traumatic stress. Obama said it was "absolutely critical . . . to put an end to any stigma" that prevents troops from getting treatment for PTSD.
"No one should ever die waiting for the mental health care they need," he said, referring to one of Carter's fellow survivors who later took his own life.
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 the 53 fellow 4th Infantry Division soldiers who defended the outpost that day, eight were killed and more than 25 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 citation. "He did all this while under heavy small arms and indirect fire that lasted more than six hours."
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 former 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 in the mountains near the Pakistani border. A Pentagon review later found that the outpost, which was closed immediately after the attack, should never have been established in the first place because it was too difficult to defend and the area too dangerous for provincial reconstruction teams.