A year ago, President Obama awarded the awarded the Medal of Honor to Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, in a ceremony at the White House, saying, "Dakota is the kind of guy who gets the job done." Now, Kentucky’s most famous living Marine has written his account of the brutal battle in Afghanistan that led to the recognition of his extraordinary heroism for repeatedly braving enemy fire while attempting to find and save fellow members of his embedded training team.
Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, by Dakota Meyer (with Bing West) landed on bookstore shelves across the country this week, and is available from Amazon, in hardback ($16.20) and Kindle ($13.99).
Meyer takes his readers back to the fall of 2009, when Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisors in a mountain village called Ganjigal. Firing from entrenched positions, the enemy was positioned to wipe out one hundred men who were pinned down and were repeatedly refused artillery support. Ordered to remain behind with the vehicles, twenty-one year-old Marine corporal Dakota Meyer disobeyed orders and attacked to rescue his comrades.
With a brave driver at the wheel, Meyer stood in the gun turret exposed to withering fire, rallying Afghan troops to follow. Over the course of the five hours, he charged into the valley time and again. Employing a variety of machine guns, rifles, grenade launchers, and even a rock, Meyer repeatedly repulsed enemy attackers, carried wounded Afghan soldiers to safety, and provided cover for dozens of others to escape—supreme acts of valor and determination. In the end, Meyer and four stalwart comrades—an Army captain, an Afghan sergeant major, and two Marines—cleared the battlefield and came to grips with a tragedy they knew could have been avoided. For his actions on that day, Meyer became the first living Marine in three decades to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Into the Fire tells the story of the battle of Ganjigal from the perspective of a Kentucky farm boy who was trained as a Marine sniper, and was then thrust onto a chaotic battlefield on the other side of the world. Meyer shares not only his terrifying experiences in combat, but also the grief-stricken agony of coming to terms with the loss of his closest friends; leading to bouts with depression and an attempted suicide.
In vivid detail, we are introduced to the grim realities of modern warfare, as seen through the eyes of Dakota Meyer. At once, fast-paced and exciting, Meyer’s recounting of his ordeal is sobering and revealing. His heroism shines out from every page of the book, and as General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, observed: “Sergeant Meyer embodies all that is good about our nation’s Corps of Marines. . . . [His] heroic actions . . . will forever be etched in our Corps’ rich legacy of courage and valor.”
Meyer became 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 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.
“The story of what Dakota did . . . will be told for generations.”—President Barack Obama, from remarks given at Meyer’s Medal of Honor ceremony
Sen. McConnell Honors Kentuckian, Sgt. Dakota Meyer:
Dakota Myer interviewed by Military Times