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Medal of Honor recipient's family watches from Mississippi

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FLOWOOD/RIDGELAND, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Carpenter had about 100 invitations to give out for today's event. Nearly 80 of those were given to the doctors and medical staff that's helped him recover from his injuries. Members of his family that didn't get to go, made sure to watch it unfold from a distance.

President Barack Obama presented the medal of honor to Corporal William "Kyle" Carpenter. Carpenter was born in Flowood. In November 2010 in Afghanistan, Carpenter jumped on a live grenade during a firefight with the Taliban.

He lost his right eye, most of his jaw and suffers from a collapsed lung. Carpenter was briefly declared dead by medics, but he somehow survived. He's thankful to be alive.

Nearly a thousand miles from D.C., Kyle Carpenter's cousins watched with pride as he receives America's highest military honor.

"It's kind of surreal," said cousin Anna Ballard. "I guess when it's someone that close to you. In my mind he's just like Kyle, my cousin. But we're really proud."

Ballard is one of Carpenter's three first cousins who watched the ceremony together. They got play by plays throughout the day from their parents who made the trip to the White House.

"To receive the medal of honor is appropriate for him because... he's awesome," said Ballard.

Carpenter was labeled a hero from the moment he stepped in front of the live grenade back in 2010, saving his friend and fellow Marine.That part of his journey is not one that came as a surprise to family.

"He's a protector," explained Ballard. "That was his job. That was just his first instinct obviously was not to run but to go towards it. And it says a lot about his character and a lot about who Kyle is."

Carpenter has said the enemy killed him but he came back. First cousin Megan Pace says the way he's come back has been an added source of inspiration for everyone around him.

"It would be crazy to say he didn't change after the accident," Pace described. "Of course something like that would change anyone but it's almost like the positive aspects of his personality were amplified after the accident."

There were smiles all around as the family watched the ceremony. They were thinking ahead to what's next in Carpenter's story.

"He has so many wonderful things to say and do," said Pace. "His platform was already really big but now it's just huge. I'm just really excited to see what the lord is going to do with this."

Both of Carpenter's grandmothers still live in Mississippi. So he visits for holidays and family gatherings.

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