A Marine from Kentucky will receive this nation’s highest award for valor, for repeatedly braving enemy fire in eastern Afghanistan, while attempting to find and save fellow members of his embedded training team. The Marine Corps Times reports that 23-year-old Corporal Dakota Meyer was contacted by President Obama on Monday, and told that he will soon receive the Medal of Honor.
He will become the first living Marine recipient of the Medal of Honor in 41 years. Only two other living recipients—both U.S. Army soldiers—have received the medal for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and only one other Marine received it for the current conflicts, and he received it posthumously after throwing himself on a grenade.
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 on 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 told WHAS-11’s Melissa Swan that he hates being called a hero. “Because, you know, if this is what it feels like to be a hero, you can have it; you miss your buddies, I miss my family, my brothers....” His comrades died two years ago, but Meyer still wears a black band on each wrist, etched with four names: Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 1st Lt. Michael Johnson and Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton.
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.
Mike Meyer, Dakota Meyer's father, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that his son did not want the award for himself, and that the only thing Dakota Meyer really wanted was that the men who died that day be remembered. "It ain't for him," Mike Meyer said. "It's for the family of the guys that didn't make it out."
Dakota Myer interviewed by Military Times
WHAS-11’s Melissa Swan reports: