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Originally published July 26, 2013 at 9:54 PM | Page modified July 27, 2013 at 12:37 AM

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JBLM soldier’s Afghanistan heroics earn Medal of Honor

A valiant, bloody defense of a small outpost in eastern Afghanistan four years ago has produced a second Medal of Honor recipient — a Spokane-born soldier who repeatedly risked his own life on behalf of his fellow soldiers.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A valiant, bloody defense of a small outpost in eastern Afghanistan four years ago has produced a second Medal of Honor recipient — a Spokane-born soldier who repeatedly risked his own life on behalf of his fellow soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter, who now is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, will receive the Medal of Honor at an Aug. 26 ceremony in the White House, some six months after his fellow soldier, former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, received the nation’s highest military honor for his actions at the same battle.

Carter, 33, will be the fifth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He was born in Spokane in 1980, moved away with his family the next year to California, then returned in 1991 and graduated there from North Central High School. He is married and has three children.

In 2009, Carter served with the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team from Fort Carson, Colo. His unit was assigned to Combat Outpost Keating, a small firebase in an exposed position in a remote valley in eastern Afghanistan.

On Oct. 3, 2009, shortly before 6 a.m., 54 U.S. soldiers at the outpost came under assault from some 400 insurgents, who fired from crevassed and overgrown high ground. The more than six hours of fighting resulted in eight American deaths and injuries to more than 25 others, including Carter.

“Without regard to his own safety ... Carter proved himself time and time again,” reads the official Army narrative of his actions. “He 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 Colorado Springs Gazette, in an article published earlier this year, said Carter, 33, is stricken by feelings of guilt that he should have somehow done more to save Spc. Stephan Mace, a 21-year-old soldier and the youngest man in the unit to die in the attack.

Mace was struck by incoming fire and pleaded for help. Carter left a damaged Humvee “and knowing that he would almost certainly be killed,” the Army narrative said, sprinted to the injured soldier to staunch his bleeding and place a tourniquet on a shattered leg. Carter then carried Mace back through a hail of bullets to the Humvee.

Carter later helped carry Mace across 100 meters of ground swept with sniper and machine-gun fire, according to the Army narrative.

Hours later, a medevac helicopter was finally able to land. Mace was alive at the time of the airlift, but died later.

“Everything I trained for my whole life pretty much led to that moment,” Carter told The Gazette. “And when he died, I figured that I had failed.”

The battle came to symbolize both the heroism and the frustrations of the long war in Afghanistan.

The American soldiers, with the help of air support, managed to keep the outpost from being overrun, and killed some 150 insurgents.

The outpost was scheduled for closure in the summer of 2009, and it was only because of numerous delays that it was still staffed with U.S. soldiers at the time of the attack. An investigative report of the battle found that the soldiers were left in an indefensible position, and called for letters of reprimand or admonishment for four officers for failing to build up the base’s defense and improve force protections, according to June 2011 story by The Army Times.

Since 2010, Carter has served with the 1st Cavalry Regiment of the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. In May 2012 he returned to Afghanistan with that brigade and was based out of Kandahar City, according to an Army profile of Carter.

Carter has received other recognition for his heroism on that 2009 day.

At a gala event in New York City, he was honored with the USO’s George Van Cleave Military Leadership Award in 2011 for exceptional service.

Carter said he was surprised to receive that award.

“I am not the type to earn these kinds of things. I was taken aback because I always felt these things happen to somebody else,” Carter said, according to an Army public-affairs news release.

On Monday, Carter is scheduled to meet with reporters at JBLM to talk about his upcoming receipt of the Medal of Honor.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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