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