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Medal of Honor Recipient inspires Swamp Fox chaplain's assistant

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, right, poses for a photo with U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Charles Williams, following his Medal of Honor award ceremony inside the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. June 19, 2014. Cpl. Carpenter was awarded the Medal for his actions while serving in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael C. Guinto/Released)

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, right, poses for a photo with U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Charles Williams, following his Medal of Honor award ceremony inside the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. June 19, 2014. Cpl. Carpenter was awarded the Medal for his actions while serving in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael C. Guinto/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- When Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter stood in the East Room of the White House to accept his Medal of Honor June 19 from President Obama, seated just feet away was U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Charles Williams from the 169th Fighter Wing.

Williams, a chaplain's assistant, was invited to attend the ceremony by Carpenter.

He met Carpenter at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany in 2010. Williams was deployed for the second time in two years to provide spiritual care as part of a Religious Support Team. On Nov. 21, 2010, Taliban insurgents initiated an attack on Carpenter's squad, part of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment in the Marjah District of Afghanistan's Helmand Province when enemy fighters attacked Patrol Base Dakota.

Carpenter, the squad automatic rifleman for his fire team, and Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio were holding a rooftop security position when a hand grenade was thrown at their position. Carpenter is credited with throwing his body on the grenade to shield Eufrazio from the blast.

Williams received a phone call from the 169th Fighter Wing Chaplain, Lt. Col. Brian Bohlman. Carpenter's church family had reached out and asked Williams to help the gravely injured Marine whose home state is also South Carolina.

"Kyle says he only remembers the blast and has no memory until he was at Walter Reed," Williams said. "He was told later that a Master Sgt. Williams was there helping him along the way."

He went to Carpenter's bedside to find the Marine unconscious and a body wrecked from the grenade's blast. He prayed over Carpenter and made time to continually check on him and tell the unconscious Marine that he too was from South Carolina and related stories about Lake Murray and Gamecock football.

Williams admits the long hours and seeing so many wounded were taking a toll on him when the young Marine from Lexington County came through. He said seeing Carpenter make a miraculous recovery was the motivation he needed to keep going.

"He did more for me than I did for him," Williams said.

It wasn't until months later that the two met again. This time Williams, who works for the South Carolina Senate in his civilian career, was able to arrange for Carpenter to be recognized by the Senate during a resolution signing. The two have since stayed in contact with one another as Carpenter recovered from his wounds and transitioned into civilian life.

Williams said he was "in awe" of the experience surrounding the Medal of Honor presentation and was proud to represent the South Carolina Air National Guard.

"He is the epitome of what the Marine Corps is and our state," Williams said. "I am excited to see what God has in store for him."

Carpenter received the Medal of Honor for his actions. In July 2013, he was medically retired as a corporal due to his wounds and is a full-time student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

(Note: additional information compiled from DoD reports).