The yearbooks were put away and the cell phones silenced when Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Ty Carter took the stage at Lakes High School Wednesday.
The Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier was an open book as he spoke to social studies students about his two combat deployments to Afghanistan and what it means to have received the Medal of Honor -- an award that puts him in an elite class of seven living American war heroes.
Carter spent most of the time taking questions from students on a variety of topics, including his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and his life since being awarded the medal last year by President Barack Obama.
He said he suffered from a serious case of PTSD after his first deployment, but with counseling he was able to reduce the effects.
Lakes senior Mckenzie Dagan said it was moving to hear about the sacrifices so many veterans endure. She said it was great hearing Carter encourage students to serve their communities in many different ways, besides through the military.
Carter told the Lakewood students he was not the perfect citizen when he began his military career with the Marine Corps in his hometown of Spokane, nor when he was a student like them.
“When I was in high school I made a lot of mistakes,” Carter said. “Do everything you can to learn as much as you can, while the education is still free.”
He is one of seven living service members who have received the nation’s highest military honor in Iraq or Afghanistan. Four of the men have ties to the Puget Sound area.
Lakes Principal Karen Mauer-Smith said Carter’s speech resonated with students, many of whom have parents in the military.
“For them, I’m certain there’s a level of both understanding and pride in being able to see him today, and listen to him,” Mauer-Smith said.
Gabrielle Garosi, a senior who will attend Gonzaga University next fall as an ROTC student, said the speech was inspirational to her and many of her classmates.
“It really spoke me because I’m joining the military,” Garosi said.
Carter’s appearance was part of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, a organization committed to sharing the stories of Medal of Honor recipients.
Carter said he hopes to be a role model for young adults, and promote community involvement and civic service through speaking out across the nation.
He said he’s considering retiring from the military soon to pursue other professional options. He is assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at JBLM.
Carter was awarded for bravery he showed during an October 2009 attack in which Afghan insurgents penetrated a combat outpost, killing eight U.S. soldiers and wounding 25 others over a 12-hour period. Carter repeatedly ran into the firefight to try to save his comrades.
Ryan Tarinelli: 253-597-8670