Roy Exum: You Are Worth It

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I don’t exactly when it first began, but I have assembled the most fun “Hall of Fame” that I could have ever imagined. There is ‘Sully,” for example, the pilot who emergency landed a US Airways jet on the Hudson River after the plane lost all power due to a flock of geese. Chesley Sullenberger not only saved every life of those on Flight 1549, only two were kept overnight at Manhattan hospitals before being released the very next day. Then there is Heather Penney, the single mother of two, who on 9/11 took an unarmed F-16 in search of possible suicide airliners knowing fully well the only weapon she had to avert further catastrophe was to use her fighter jet as a kamikaze to bring that plane down.

I adore former Alabama All-American quarterback Jalen Hurts who, when he was beaten out for his position by the sensational Tua Tagovailoa, last season never whined or complained but became the consummate team player, coming off the bench to lead Alabama to the SEC title. He then transferred to Oklahoma (8-1) and through nine games with the Sooners has passed for 24 touchdowns and run for another 15. (Tua, every bit as good, has passed for 31 touchdowns for the Tide (8-1) and the two remain as close friends.)

That brings us to a kid who has been in my personal shrine since 2014, when Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kyle Carpenter was awarded the Metal of Honor by President Obama after diving on a hand grenade to shield his fellow Marines. Kyle offered the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan on Nov. 21, 2010, and, against all odds, survived the blast. Only until now, do we understand why. Last month HarperCollins published a book that Kyle has written with the help of award-winning writer Don Yaeger. Entitled “You Are Worth It,” the book is certain to be a best seller.

I am thinking there is a little more. At a time when as many students in our public schools cannot read as those who can, one of the major criticisms is my belief that I wouldn’t want to read the stuff our teachers require either.  Kyle’s new book – once again – is “You Are Worth it.” Not “Read About Me,” or “Ain’t I A Hero.” No, it is directed at an audience that we care about “you.” How can we get a copy of this book into the hands of some kids who are getting mauled on society’s battlefields?

I read all the time and on a website called, “The Daily Caller,” which is one of my favorites, incidentally, a contributing writer whose name I immediately recognized, has written something akin to a book report:

AN EXCERPT FROM DAILY CALLER: “How Medal Of Honor Recipient Kyle Carpenter Recovered From Jumping On A Grenade”

(Note: This is part of an article, written by Hannah Grossman, that appeared on No. 11, 2019, on the website, dailycaller.com)

After the blast, Carpenter felt a warm sensation of water being poured all over him, which caused him to think for a moment that his buddies might be playing some sort of prank. But then it dawned on him — it was not water being poured on him, it was his own blood.

On a rooftop in Afghanistan, the Marine said a prayer to God, asked for forgiveness, and thought about his family. Then everything went black. He explained to Daily Caller, “I went unconscious and the lights went out. It wasn’t even a black. It was like nothing, but it wasn’t even darkness. It was just nothing for five weeks. I fade out on a hot dusty rooftop in Afghanistan. I wake up on the other side of the world, it’s snowing outside and it’s Christmas time. But for five weeks it was not a sliver of light, not a thought, not a pain. It was nothing.”

Carpenter was so severely injured that he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. He flatlined three times, but miraculously he was successfully resuscitated.

Recovery from the debilitating injuries he sustained was tough. Carpenter had shrapnel and countless shattered bones throughout his body, including 30 fractures in his right arm, ruptured ear drums, he lost most of his jaw and teeth, and he also lost an eye. Although, the hardest part, Carpenter said, was seeing his family suffer with him at Walter Reed military hospital, where he had dozens of surgeries.

In his new book “You Are Worth It,” released Oct. 15, Carpenter gives hope to those who are struggling by supplying them with life lessons he learned through injury, hardship, agony, and triumph. The lessons evolved after years of deep thought, healing and self-reflection.

Some lessons are cute and simple, such as the chapter entitled “call your mom.” Other lessons are complex such as the chapter entitled “don’t hide your scars” — where the author explains that there is “a power in embracing these stories that leave their marks on our bodies and souls.”

Kyle gained an appreciation for his scars after one session of scar removal laser treatment. After the excruciating treatment that caused his face to swell, he decided that erasing his scars was akin to erasing what he had been through.

Another chapter delves into a lesson Carpenter learned during his time at Walter Reed. He describes undergoing an agonizing three hours where he was poked all over his body with needles because the doctors could not find a good vein. Though Kyle is a positive person, looking at the bright side during this unbearable moment simply would not have been enough. Instead, Carpenter believes staying motivated is more important. He writes, “As badly as I wanted to give up and tell them to wait until my veins had healed enough to get a decent stick I forced myself to focus on the end goal.”

Sometimes in life, according to Kyle, we don’t know what the end result will be but we just have to stay motivated regardless if a positive end can be seen at the time. He writes, “You change the people around you change even your understanding of God changes, but you’re supposed to stay motivated… for what? For a future that is totally unclear.”

Everyday, Kyle lives with the ramifications of that fateful day in Afghanistan. His ears constantly ring loudly. He writes that “it’s often difficult to concentrate. It’s hard sometimes not to be overwhelmed that my ears are almost certainly going to ring like that forever.” In addition to that, he writes, “I’m never going to be able to do some basic tasks, like put on a suit, without a little help.” Yet, Kyle’s story is not one about a marine who was injured and lives with disabilities.

“You Are Worth It” is a story of hope, selflessness, faith, and rebirth. Carpenter writes that, “I’ve done more with my life now a hundred times more than if I weren’t injured.” It is also a story of a grateful and positive individual who never gave up fighting.

Merely three months after being discharged from Walter Reed hospital, Carpenter ran a marathon to prove that “he still had a body that worked, a heart that was beating, and a life left to live.”

“I strive to do anything and everything in life that makes my heart beat.  The same heart that at one time, you know, flat lined and that heartbeat was non-existent,” Carpenter said.

There are so many parts of Carpenter’s story that has captured the awe of the nation. There’s Marine Kyle, Deployment Kyle, On The Roof Getting Injured While Jumping on a Grenade Kyle. But the Kyle he is most proud of is the one who found his journey back.

Five years after Carpenter was evacuated from Afghanistan, he returned to thank all of the medical staff who helped save his life as part of a gratitude tour. He was surprised to find that the hospital had his x-rays from years before. As Carpenter walked with his boots upon the hot Afghani sand, he was also surprised to find that the power that was taken from him when he was critically injured was being restored to him.

“This was a final piece to help me get through all this. It was empowering to go back to [Afghanistan]. My blood was still in the dirt there — to go back to a place that almost killed me and took me away from… my family,” he said.

* * *

The Daily Caller writer ends her story: “As it turns out, part of what brings Carpenter joy and healing is using the hard times he has gone through to it empower others. In other words, Carpenter has found a way to continue a life of service to his fellow Americans that is unique and completely his own. As he notes in the book, even though he has not continued active military service (though he considered it), he will always be a Marine. Carpenter is leaving that possibility open of whether there will be another book with more lessons. In the meantime, Carpenter proudly wears a tattoo of a purple heart, a symbol of the award given to wounded veterans, on his left arm. On his right arm he wears a scar, a sign that reminds him that “something went right.”

* * *

Copies of the book are available at Amazon, “You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For” costs $17.79. It is already a national best seller by USA Today, Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly. It is published by HarperCollins.

royexum@aol.com


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