Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, a Spokane native currently based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, feels uncomfortable when people call him a hero. President Barack Obama bestowed on Carter the nation's highest military honor this year for a battle four years ago this October.
The battle, one of the fiercest of the war in Afghanistan, occurred while Carter was stationed at Command Outpost Keating in the eastern part of the country. The roughly 53 U.S. troops at the outpost were at first overpowered by 300 or more Taliban fighters. But despite overwhelming numerical odds and "blizzards of bullets and steel," Carter and his fellow soldiers "pushed the enemy back. The soldiers retook their camp."
In an appearance on KIRO Radio's Tom and Curley Show, Carter vividly recalled the machine-gun fire that awoke him at 6 a.m., the smell of the burning compound, burning plastic from C4 explosions, and the noise.
"The sounds are just immense," said Carter. "It's not just sound that's moving you, it's the concussion of the actual explosions, or it's the feeling of the bullet getting a little too close as it sizzles, cutting through the air. It breaks the sound barrier so you hear a pop, sizzle as it zips by, then you hear the impact right around you."
"It's very emotional, but the emotions you really focus on are the determination to keep pushing, and of course the fear that reminds you that at any point in time, any decision could be your last."
Carter received the honorable recognition for risking his life to save an injured soldier, resupply ammunition to his comrades and rendering first aid during the intense firefight. But Carter said he doesn't see his actions as that extraordinary.
"I don't think that I did, or anybody else did, anything that anybody else wouldn't have done. For example, if you have family, if you have children, if they're hurt or injured, you would move heaven and earth to save them or help them," said Carter. "If you receive the same training as I have. If you believe that a family member was there. If you believe that if you let this guard position fall, then you would fall, or your best friend, your right and left would fall, I believe that you would do the exact same thing that I did."
Carter left the shelter of a Humvee, running into a whizzing shower of bullets he compared to raindrops, to provide aid and ultimately pull a fellow fighter out of harm's way. He barely new the man he tried to save, but saw he was in need.
"The only thing that connected us was he needed my help and I could help him. It didn't matter if he was a blood brother. It didn't matter if he was a complete stranger. The fact that he was wearing that uniform and he was there to support me, I was there to support him."
The risks he took for others he said, is not unusual among American troops, and that, that type of valor and bravery is taking place more than is recognized.
"This medal should have been given to a lot more people. There are so many valorous and brave acts that happen overseas right now in combat zones that are not properly recorded or distributed," said Carter.
The main reason Carter doesn't want to be called a hero is because he wants to believe others would behave in a similarly brave manner.
"I hope that others, when they're faced with such huge odds, that they are willing to do the things that we did that day to support each other. The whole point of having a society is to support each other," said Carter. "So I want to believe that the American spirit, the pride and the bravery are still there from the times of the wars from the past."
"We have a lot of technology. We have all the cool planes and all the cool tanks. But when it comes to actual force presence, there will always be boots on the ground. I hope that this generation, the next generation will continue to show the pride, the honor, the courage, the bravery that soldiers today and the service members in the past have done."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.