A True Fighting Gamecock at the University of South Carolina

I don’t personally know Kyle Carpenter, but I imagine he did what most normal college young men did this past semester at the University of South Carolina. He probably worked hard to be the good student that he is, but I’m guessing he also played video games, watched sports on TV, discussed classes and what he might do this weekend with friends. He might even be watching our Gamecock baseball team or be thinking about next year’s football and basketball teams.

Kyle Carpenter continuously tries to pass himself off as just a regular student at the University of South Carolina. But last week, Kyle Carpenter visited the White House–not on a tour, but as an invited guest of President Barack Obama. You see, Kyle Carpenter really isn’t your average USC student. He is the retired Marine Corporal Kyle Carpenter, and he was at the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from President Obama. Kyle is the eighth living recipient and the second Marine recipient of this great honor since the start of the war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Why did President Obama honor this twenty-four-year-old man? Kyle Carpenter’s story is anything but ordinary. On November 21, 2010, Kyle and his best friend Lance Corporal Nicholas Eufrazio stood guard on a rooftop in the Marjah District of the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, taking fire from the Taliban, when a grenade landed on the roof. What this young Marine did in the next few seconds changed the lives of both his best friend and him.

He dove toward the grenade.Silhouette fedora

His action saves his best friend’s life, and miraculously, Kyle survived the blast.

Kyle remained conscious for a few seconds after the blast, feeling his life’s blood pour out of him. According to his personal accounts, in those second that Kyle remained conscience, he asked if his best friend Nicholas Eufrazio survived, and he accepted Christ in his life so that he could go to Heaven. Plus he was upset, thinking about his family he wouldn’t see, as he was certain he was going to die there on the rooftop in Afghanistan?

In the critical minutes that passed, Carpenter went through three revivals of flat-line cardiac arrest. By the grace of God, the medics, paramedics and doctors didn’t give up on Kyle, and Kyle’s intestinal fortitude refused to give up. The next thing this heroic young man remembers is waking up at Walter Reed Army Hospital, following a coma that lasted more than five weeks.

Over the next two years, Marine Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter underwent almost forty surgeries to repair the loss of a right eye, a blown right ear drum, a fractured nose, destroyed lower jaw and cheek bones, plus a right arm broken into more than thirty pieces. And those weren’t the worst injuries–he also had shrapnel in his brain. During two years of recovery, this native of Mississippi and resident of Gilbert, South Carolina strived to return to normal.

In a recent interview with a local TV station, he talked about going back to Afghanistan to the very rooftop where the horrific incident occurred, for nothing else but closure on that fateful moment—that moment when he did what he claims all Marines would proudly do: dive on a grenade to protect his fellow Marines.

Kyle’s recovery has been nothing short of miraculous, and he is now doing things that none of his doctors would have predicted. Kyle is even contemplating running the Marine Corp Marathon in the future.

The Twenty-fifth Anniversary of Tian’anmen Square

Over the past couple of weeks, the Chinese government has been preparing for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tian’anmen Square Protest by cracking down on their list of potential protestors, fearing a repeat of that fateful day.

On June 4, 1989, the World watched in horror as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including their tanks, turned on their very own people. The image that I have in my head is probably the same image you have in yours; the student moving in front of the PLA tank in Tian’anmen Square.

How did the world’s most populous country get into that position?

In April of 1989, an icon of the Chinese Liberals, Hu Yao-bang, passed away. Hu was a former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who had refused to shut down a protest in January of 1987. To honor Hu’s death, students held peaceful demonstrations in Shanghai, Beijing, and several other cities.

The students who participated in this demonstration were some of the top academics in China. Although this started out as a memorial to Hu, it evolved into a protest to bring attention to the poor living conditions in China. Over the next month, this memorial service escalated to a pro-democracy protest with an estimated 100,000 students and workers participation, which culminated in Tian’anmen Square in Beijing. The participants in the demonstration were not the usual protestors, such as students and activists; instead, they included lawyers, journalists and older adult relatives of the students.

While the protest grew, the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Deng Xiao-ping held meetings with his closest advisers to discuss how to deal with the first major threat to the Communist rule that this country had experienced since the Civil War of late 1940s. Besides this conflict in the Square, there was also conflict amongst his own advisers, Premier Li Peng and CCP General Secretary Zhao Zi-yang, as to how to handle the growing protest. The protest came just after the fall of the communist movement (or more correctly labeled, the dictatorships) in Eastern Europe. Chairman Deng Xiao-ping was going to do everything in his power to make sure the harsh communist rule would continue in China. The vision of a strong, self-reliant communist society had been largely shelved by the generation that had grown up after Mao. They thought Deng was different. They thought wrong!

On May 20, the Communist government declared martial law, which in itself sounds strange for a Communist dictatorship. Chairman Deng decided to follow Li Peng’s “get tough” plan and ordered the Chinese troops into Tian’anmen Square to end the pro-democracy protest.

After the protest was put down by the military, more than 10,000 protesters were injured, and a large number of people were detained or arrested. Strangely, Chinese citizens just “disappeared.” But that was not the worst of it; more than fifty Chinese were murdered. Sure makes the term Peoples Liberation Army sound like a misnomer.

The man considered to be the leader of the movement, Liu Xiaobo, was later arrested and put in prison, where he still sits. Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize for leading this peaceful protest advocating political reform.

Although the government had quelled similar protests since the mid-1980s, the extremely violent suppression of the Tian’anmen Square protest caused widespread international condemnation of the Chinese government.

Chinese business leaders and advisers in Beijing believed that most of the countries would restart their business with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after a brief period of complaint over the Tian’anmen Square Incident. The Chinese government’s hopes were dashed for joining international organizations, trade or otherwise. Then US imposed sanctions and the World Bank suspended China’s loans.

Although there had been significant improvement in human rights in China in the in the twenty years leading up to the Tian’anmen Square Incident, abuses had continued.Silhouette fedora

Today, China has evolved militarily and economically into a world power. They have a growing middle class and a growing economy. However, the Communist Politburo still runs the country, though they have let up their boot a little from the necks of their peoples. Still, they have real issues within their government and economy.

I believe that, if another protest ever breaks out in Tian’anmen Square, this time the army will join the protestors in the streets and overthrow the Communist leaders.

What do you think will happen the next time the students start a protest in Tian’anmen Square?