Dakota Meyer, Next Medal of Honor Recipient (UPDATED)

As reported here, Dakota Meyer, a former Marine Corps Sergeant, will be the first living Marine Corps recipient of our nation’s highest award for valor since the Vietnam War and the first living Marine to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has now announced that Meyer will be honored with the award at a White House ceremony on Sept. 15.

The Stars and Stripes has provided some additional information on Dakota, who braved intense enemy fire and risked his life to recover the bodies of four fallen comrades during a battle in Ganjgal, a remote village in violent Kunar province, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.

The 22-year-old’s heroics came while serving with an embedded training team from the III Marine Expeditionary Force out of Okinawa, Japan. In September 2009, his team was ambushed in the controversial battle of Ganjgal, which claimed the lives of five Marines and nine Afghan allies.

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Earlier this summer, two other Marines from that fight — Capt. Ademola Fabayo and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez — received the Navy Cross for their heroics evacuating wounded comrades and repelling the enemy ambush.

But Corps officials said Meyer’s heroics went even further. He was wounded by shrapnel early in the battle, but when his unit lost contact with three Marines and a Navy corpsman pinned down by enemy fire, Meyer fought his way down a mountainside alone to their position.

When he found them all dead and in danger of being claimed as trophies by enemy fighters, he evacuated their bodies with the help of Afghan troops.

Just a few days after the attack, an angry Meyer told a reporter from McClatchy News Service that the off-site commanders’ decisions not to order artillery support “basically screwed our guys over. They expect us to bring stuff to the fight, and [the commanders] didn’t give it to us.”

And in an interview with the Military Times late last year, Meyer said he felt praise for his heroics that day was unwarranted. “I feel like I let my guys down, because I didn’t bring them home alive,” he said.

Meyer, a Kentucky native, left the Marine Corps last summer as a sergeant, and is currently in the Inactive Ready Reserves.

He served as a scout sniper and trained as a combat lifesaver and had previously fought in Iraq. At the time of his deployment to combat duty in Afghanistan, he was serving as a Turret Gunner and Driver.

Dakota Meyer lived and worked briefly in Austin, Texas, earlier this year. We’ll be happy to reduce the “residence requirements” to call this hero a Texan.

CODA:

Jeff Schogol at the Stars and Stripes provides the following interesting facts and figures about the Medal of Honor:

**In military history, 19 men have received the Medal of Honor twice.

**Only one woman has been awarded the Medal of Honor: Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War civilian surgeon.

**Only one member of the Coast Guard has been awarded the Medal of Honor: Douglas Munro, for actions at Guadalcanal in 1942.

**Theodore Roosevelt, who commanded the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War, is the only president to be awarded the medal.

**Army Sgt. William Carney was the first African-American to receive the medal, for actions during the Civil War. Since then, 87 African-Americans have received the award.

**Both Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his father, Arthur, received the Medal of Honor.

**During the Civil War, 1,522 Medals of Honor were awarded. At the time, it was the only military award available.

UPDATE:

The following is the White House official announcement of the upcoming ceremony:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
August 12, 2011
President Obama to Award Medal of Honor

On September 15th, President Barack Obama will award Dakota Meyer, a former active duty Marine Corps Corporal, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. He will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a member of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on September 8, 2009 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He will be the third living recipient – and first Marine – to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.

Dakota Meyer was born in Columbia, Kentucky on June 26, 1988, attended local public schools, and graduated from Green County high school. In 2006, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at a recruiting station in Louisville, Kentucky, and completed his basic training at Parris Island Recruit Training Depot later that year.

In 2010, he completed his active duty commitment and currently serves in the Inactive Ready Reserve of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as a Sergeant. He is a highly skilled Marine infantryman and Scout Sniper who is also trained as a Combat Lifesaver. At the time of his deployment to combat duty in Afghanistan he was serving as a Turret Gunner and Driver.

While on active duty, he deployed twice to the combat theater, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. During 2007, he deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom with Third Battalion, Third Marines, and during 2009-10, he deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.

His military decorations include: a Purple Heart Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” device for valor, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Good Conduct Medal. His other awards and decorations include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star, Iraq Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, NATO ISAF Afghanistan Medal, and a Rifle Expert Badge (3rd Award) and Pistol Expert Badge (2nd Award).

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

THE MEDAL OF HONOR:

The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while:

engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.

         

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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11 Comments

  1. Amazing what courage young men under fire can show. And heart-breaking to see how little it often achieves. He earned that medal, but I’m sure he would rather have had those five men brought back alive than that metal star hanging from his neck.

  2. Thank you for your comments, Daniel.

    Actually Dakota Meyer hinted towards your thoughts here:

    “And in an interview with the Military Times late last year, Meyer said he felt praise for his heroics that day was unwarranted. “I feel like I let my guys down, because I didn’t bring them home alive,” he said.”

  3. Sad set if circumstances for winning the Medal of Honor. I think I read earlier that these, “commanders”, Mr. Meyer referred to have been reprimanded. I, for one, would like to see the details of those “reprimands”. Refusing supporting arms to unit under fire is pretty egregious and I think the public deserves to know why.

    It’s interesting that he gets the medal after leaving the military, pink I.D. card notwithstanding. If I were him, and, still in protest mode, (which I tend to be more often than I should), I’d make the President put it around my neck in my Hawaiian shirt. I’m sure the president would understand.

  4. Dorian, am I right that an official reprimand normally ends the recipient’s career?

  5. You are “almost” right, Daniel.

    An official reprimand is not an action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

    However such letters of reprimand typically end an officer’s chance for promotion, effectively ending his or her career.

    “Effectively” is the key word

  6. Oh!

    Thank you very much Dorian for digging this up just for me.

    A blight against 10th Mountain command. Senator Dole’s WWII unit, when he was wounded in Italy. C.O. and X.O. conspicuously absent, one deployed “elsewhere” and the other on “leave”, while THEIR unit is deployed in combat? Who’s stupid idea was that? Sometimes I think Army career officers are a little short in the dedication department. The kadet corps, the kadet corps my arse.

    But I’d still make’em award me in my Hawaiian shirt. Because like Ned here, I don’t think I’d fit in my old uniform. :-)

    http://www.navy.mil/view_single.asp?id=97506

  7. I can’t imagine putting myself into a situation with the thought…. “I’m probably going to die”. Amazing.

    I would hope he starts a new career as a highly paid speaker. Considering what Clinton and Bush pull in for speeches, this guy better make a mint.

  8. Thanks for the link, Allen.

    I especially liked the concluding paragraphs:

    “I’m not a hero, by any means — I’m a Marine, that’s what I am,” he said. “The heroes are the men and women still serving, and the guys who gave their lives for their country. At the end of the day, I went in there to do the right thing … and it all boils down to doing the right thing … whatever it takes. All those things we learn stick in your head, and when you live by it, that’s the Marine way.”

    Though Meyer will receive the Medal of Honor for what he did in Ganjgal, he insists he will wear the five-pointed medallion and blue silk ribbon to honor his fallen brothers, their families and his fellow Marines.

    “Being a Marine is a way of life,” Meyer said. “It isn’t just a word, and it’s not just about the uniform — it’s about brotherhood. Brotherhood means that when you turn around, they’re there, through thick and thin. If you can’t take care of your brothers, what can you do in life?”

  9. Dorian-

    Yeah, quite a contrast from business ethic America, is it not? He may have to re-evaluate his perceived “always do the right thing” ethic in this country or business just might rape the initiate raw every time he attempts any speculation.

    What amazes me, is that he, the most junior member of the training team, spoke Pashtun! A guy that pours concrete for a living knows Pashtun. So he must have spent time at Defense language Institute, because I’m not sure if there are any “Pashtun for Dummies” language guides on the shelf.

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