By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor on Monday to Army Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, who risked his life to save a wounded soldier under enemy fire during a battle in Afghanistan.
As Carter's family and members of his unit looked on, Obama placed the medal around the soldier's neck at a White House ceremony. It is the highest U.S. military honor.
Carter, 33, is the fifth living service member to receive the Medal of Honor for gallantry in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Carter, who also has been awarded the Purple Heart, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is an advocate of treatment for others with the ailment, Obama said.
The president took the opportunity to raise the issue of PTSD in the military and urged soldiers not to be ashamed of it.
"It is absolutely critical for us to work with brave young men like Ty to put an end to any stigma that keeps more folks from seeking help," Obama said with Carter at his side.
Carter was the second U.S. soldier to receive the award for bravery for actions on October 3, 2009, when more than 300 Taliban insurgents tried to overrun 53 soldiers at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan's isolated Nuristan province.
The outpost came under "a blizzard of bullets and steel, into which Ty ran not once, or twice, or even a few times, but perhaps 10 times," Obama said.
"In doing so, he displayed the essence of true heroism - not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but to serve others at whatever cost."
Carter, a cavalry scout with the 4th Infantry Division, resupplied ammunition to fighting positions. He fired on advancing Taliban from a Humvee, killing attackers and helping to turn back the assault.
He left the vehicle to rescue a badly wounded comrade, applying a tourniquet and first aid under fire before carrying him back to the Humvee and then to an aid station. That soldier later died of his injuries.
EXPOSED TO GUNFIRE
Carter again exposed himself to gunfire to cut down a burning tree that was threatening the aid station, Obama said.
Eight U.S. soldiers were killed and more than 25 were wounded in the battle at Keating outpost. Obama introduced relatives of those who died at the base, drawing a standing ovation from onlookers, and many family members wiped away tears.
After the ceremony, Carter said he was eager to represent those who had suffered as a result of the war.
"Only those closest to me can see the scars that come from seeing good men take their last breath," he told reporters.
Carter said during the battle he had lost some hearing in his left ear, but he said he would hear the cries of his wounded comrade forever.
Thanks to support from his superiors, friends and his family, Carter said: "I will heal."
"I promise the mothers, the fathers, and spouses of my fallen brothers that I will strive to live up to the responsibility this medal carries," he said.
"I give these men and their families all my respect, my humility and honor."
The battle was the first since the Vietnam War in which two living service members earned the Medal of Honor. Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha received his medal in February.
Carter, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, enlisted in January 2008 and completed a second Afghanistan deployment in October. He is assigned to the 7th Infantry Division, serving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Carter is married with three children.
The last battle for which two living service members received the Medal of Honor was the 1967 Battle of Ap Bac in Vietnam, a spokeswoman for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society said.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Jeff Mason; editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis)