Saying "Dakota is the kind of guy who gets the job done," President Barack Obama today awarded the Medal of Honor to Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, in a ceremony at the White House. The Kentucky hero received this nation’s highest award for valor; in recognition of his extraordinary bravery while serving in Afghanistan in 2009, and for repeatedly braving enemy fire while attempting to find and save fellow members of his embedded training team.
Louisville’s WDRB-41 covered the award ceremony:
Here at home, Governor Steve Beshear spoke for all of us when he said: “Our Commonwealth is full of pride today as one of our own, Kentucky native Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, accepts the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama for his extraordinary bravery while serving in Afghanistan in 2009… He is credited with saving the lives of 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers as well as 23 Afghan soldiers. He is the first living Marine in 40 years to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Sgt. Meyer’s unparalleled acts of heroism in the face of near-certain death should humble us all, and we offer our gratitude and honor to him on this special day.”
In a speech today on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Kentucky’s senior senator, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said: “Every American can be proud of Sergeant Meyer, age 23, for his exceptional valor in combat in Afghanistan. And I am particularly proud that Sergeant Meyer is a Kentuckian. I’m honored that heroes like him come from the Bluegrass State… His fellow Kentuckians and an entire grateful Nation thank him for his service. Brave men and women like him honor us and our country, and make us proud that America boasts the finest armed forces in the world.”
Sen. McConnell Honors Kentuckian, Sgt. Dakota Meyer:
According to Pentagon reports, on September 8, 2009, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Kunar province, Afghanistan, Corporal Meyer was serving as a Scout Sniper with 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines. Near the village of Ganjgal, Meyer learned that three U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman were missing after being attacked by a group of insurgents. Upon hearing the news he charged into an area known to be inhabited by insurgents and under enemy fire and eventually found them dead, stripped of their gear and equipment. Meyer, under heavy fire, made repeated attempts to save Afghan soldiers and made five solo trips to pull out the bodies of his fallen comrades.
In his best-selling 2011 book, The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan, former Assistant Secretary of Defense (and former Marine infantryman) Bing West devotes an entire chapter to Meyer’s actions in Ganjigal. According to West, Corporal Meyer’s embedded training team and members of the Afghan army were supposed to be a peaceful mission to talk to the village elders, when the visit proved to be an ambush, with Taliban fighters hiding throughout the village immediately opening fire on the group as they approached the village.
Meyer, who had been wounded by shrapnel on one of the previous trips to rescue his fallen comrades, made four trips through a hail of gunfire to bring out his team members. West concludes: “Meyer’s performance was the greatest act of courage in the war…”
Meyer is native of Greensburg, in Adair County, a community of about 2,500 people, 50 miles south of Louisville. He left active duty in the Marine Corps when his enlistment was up, in June 2010, and lived for a while in Austin, Texas. This spring, he returned to Kentucky to take a job as a concrete pourer for McDan Incorporated. “I would have re-upped if I could have just stayed in Afghanistan,” he told The Army Times. “But unfortunately, that can’t happen. I just felt like at that time and with the mindset I was in, it was best for me and my interests to get out.” Meyer said being back home has been good for him. He now lives in Columbia, not far from his hometown, where he is surrounded by family and old friends.
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