Medal of Honor – Afghanistan

Removed from an ambushed platoon of Marines and soldiers in a remote Afghan village on Sept. 8, 2009, his reality viciously shaken by an onslaught of enemy fighters, Cpl. Dakota Meyer simply reacted as he knew best — tackling what he called “extraordinary circumstances” by “doing the right thing … whatever it takes.”

 

Nearly two years later, the White House announced Aug. 12, 2011, the 23-year-old Marine scout sniper from Columbia, Ky., who has since left the Marine Corps, will become the first living Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor in 38 years. Retired Sgt. Maj. Allan Kellogg, Jr. received the medal in 1973 for gallantry in Vietnam.

Meyer is the second Marine to receive the medal for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Cpl. Jason Dunham was awarded the medal posthumously for covering a grenade with his body to save two Marines in Iraq in 2004. President Barack Obama will present the award to Meyer at the White House, Sept. 15.

“The award honors the men who gave their lives that day, and the men who were in that fight,” Meyer said. “I didn’t do anything more than any other Marine would. I was put in an extraordinary circumstance, and I just did my job.”

Though bleeding from shrapnel wounds in his right arm, Meyer, aided by fellow Marines and Army advisors from Embedded Training Team 2-8, braved a vicious hail of enemy machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire in the village of Ganjgal to help rescue and evacuate more than 15 wounded Afghan soldiers, and recover the bodies of four fallen fighters.

Meyer charged through the battle zone five times to recover the dead Marines and injured Afghan soldiers, risking his life even when a medical evacuation helicopter wouldn’t land because of the blazing gunfire.

“There’s not a day — not a second that goes by where I don’t think about what happened that day,” Meyer said. “I didn’t just lose four Marines that day; I lost four brothers.”

Author Bing West, a retired Marine infantry officer and combat veteran of Vietnam, detailed Meyer’s actions in the battle in “The Wrong War,” and praised Meyer for taking command of the battle as a corporal — the most junior advisor in this firefight.

West said Meyer should have been killed, but he dominated the battlefield by fearlessly exposing himself to danger and pumping rifle and machine gun rounds into the enemy fighters.

Meyer is the 86th living Medal of Honor recipient, and he joins a small, elite group of heroes, a reality that will often require him to conjure up haunting reminders of the battles he has fought, the friends he has lost and the painful regret he bears.

“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?”

(Story & photo from Marines Magazine)

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