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At the Iron Bowl, a hero

It was a fine, beautiful day. Many lovely experiences. Unfortunately the game, in its entirety, was not one of them. It had its moments, though. We will not speak of it, but of something far more important.

We often talk fatuously in a sports context about heroes and courage. In recent years even the people who discuss it sometimes acknowledge the hyperbole. There’s no getting around this, though: yesterday we were in the company of a legitimate hero.

Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, USMC, served in Afghanistan, specifically Helmand Province, where a year ago this week he put himself between a fellow Marine and a Taliban hand grenade.

He lost his right eye. Most of his teeth were knocked out of his head. His face was blown apart. His arm was mangled. His best friend in-country was seriously injured, but survived.

Carpenter was 21 at the time. All he remembers, he says, is a white flash and then a fellow Marine telling him he would be OK and a voice that said “Oh my God.” He woke up in Germany a month later with family at his side. He has been through almost 40 surgeries already, with more to come on his long road of recovery.

Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter has been nominated for the Medal of Honor.

Lucky to be alive, feeling guilty that his buddy still got hurt and that he is not still in active duty, Carpenter has a common stake with other heroes, as he told The Post and Courier:

“The light is on me right now,” he said. “But I’m hoping what happened to me will help remind people that things like this happen every day and people don’t see it. I’m proud of what my fellow Marines have done there and are doing there now.”

His father is an Auburn graduate, and he grew up an Auburn fan. He’s been to games before, but this was his first Iron Bowl.

I had the opportunity to briefly speak with him. It was a privilege to wish this gracious, humble, normal young man well in his continued recovery.

Semper Fidelis, Lance Cpl. Carpenter.

Kenny graduated from Auburn at the turn of the century. He worked in newsrooms across the region and then earned a master’s degree at UAB. He met and married a Yankee, who declared her Auburn allegiance at her first home game. She’s now on the faculty at Auburn. He’s finishing his PhD at Alabama and teaches at Samford University. See him online at www.kennysmith.org and @kennysmith.

Related: ‘There goes Hallmark’: Story of former Auburn student captured during Doolittle campaign slowly coming to light.

You’ll obviously want to relive Auburn’s national championship season now more than ever.

So go to WarEagleDVD.com and enter TWER as your promo code. You’ll get free shipping… and you’ll help your favorite Auburn website keep the lights on during the long winter.

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