21 February 2011

Fair Winds and Following Seas

Our love and prayers go out to the family and friends of Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter. We are so very sorry for your loss.

Family, friends mourn Marine
Columbia native taken off life support


Kevin Carpenter watched as doctors turned off his son’s ventilator.

“It took about five minutes, but it seemed like an hour,” Carpenter said by phone Saturday, hours after he watched the final moments of his 27-year-old son’s life.

Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter had been hospitalized at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany since Monday after he was shot in the neck while on patrol in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. He was a member of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The bullet severed his spinal cord, his heart stopped and it took officials 43 minutes to revive him. Medical officials declared Andrew Carpenter brain dead.

Kevin Carpenter and his wife flew to Germany last week to spend time with their son.

“We got to tell him we love him. We got to see him. And even though he wasn’t there, we got to hold him,” he said.

Before Andrew Carpenter was taken off life support, his parents shared a final moment with their son.

“We told him we loved him and were very proud of him, and that his wife and son are very proud of him,” Kevin Carpenter said as his voice began to crack.

A Marine spokesman declined comment Saturday, citing military policy that disallows comments on deaths until 24 hours after all family members have been notified.

Andrew Carpenter joined the Marines in 2007 and was serving his second deployment in Afghanistan. Kevin Carpenter said his son was due back sometime this spring.

He married Crissie Ponder in 2010. Crissie is pregnant and expecting to give birth to a baby boy, who will be named Landon, in less than two weeks.

The Marine’s father said officials tried their best to keep his son alive and entertained the idea of flying him back to the U.S. to let Crissie see him, but officials believed he would have died inflight.

“He was seriously degrading every day,” Kevin Carpenter said. “It came time to think of Andy and let Andy go. It was very admirable that she wanted to be with him, but it was safer to put it in the hands of God.”

Cpl. Joseph Davis, who has known Carpenter since childhood and grew up in Columbia, will escort Andrew Carpenter’s body back to Tennessee once he reaches U.S. soil.

Davis said Saturday his friend was always happy wherever he went.

“He lived a full life,” Davis said. “He loved doing what he was doing. He was glad to serve.”

Friends rallied around the family after word spread of Carpenter’s injury. On Friday night, more than a dozen people held vigil outside Columbia Central High School, where Carpenter once attended.

Well-wishers left hundreds of messages on Carpenter’s Facebook page. On Saturday, many thanked Carpenter for his sacrifice.

“You will be missed Andy! Thank you for fighting for our country and being a wonderful person! Rest in Peace. Watch over your family from above and protect them always. Thank you!” one friend wrote.

Crissie Carpenter, who has previously declined comment, also left a note on her husband’s Facebook account.

“I love you, baby. You will always be my soul mate and my best friend forever,” she wrote. “I know Landon will give me those hugs and kisses that I will miss so much. I look forward to seeing you in Heaven one day, baby.”

Kevin Carpenter said arrangements have not been finalized but he expects his son’s body will arrive in Columbia sometime this week.

“It’s a devastating loss, but we’ll get through it,” he said.

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