‘People learn … what these guys sacrificed'
Like many other veterans, Dakota Meyer wears a pair of black metal bracelets on his wrists as a reminder of the friends he lost in Afghanistan.
On his right arm, it’s Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick and 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, “KIA 08Sept2009.” On his left, it’s Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson and Petty Officer 3rd Class James Layton, killed the same day.
Unlike other veterans, however, Meyer has another better-known memorial memento: a Medal of Honor, earned trying to save those men. But he rarely has that by his side.
“I think I’ve got it in a drawer or something,” he said. “I don’t think about it that much. But these bracelets are on me all the time. I don’t take them off for anything.”
Meyer said he keeps the names on his wrist as a constant reminder not just of their absence but also to keep him focused on honoring their memory.
As one of only three living Medal of Honor recipients from the war in Afghanistan, he stands out as a celebrity among military circles, a role he admits makes him uncomfortable. But instead of shying away, the bracelets remind him to keep advocating for recognizing the sacrifice of all veterans, living and deceased.
“When I’m feeling sorry for myself, all I have to do is look down at my wrists,” he said. “They’re there to help me try and figure out where I need to be.”
The four men were killed during an ambush in Ganjgal Valley. Meyer and fellow Marines fought their way down a mountainside to get to the team after gunfire erupted, but the four perished before help could arrive.
Military officials honored the fallen team during Meyer’s Medal of Honor ceremony last September. Since then, Meyer has handed out similar memorial bracelets to family members, friends, and celebrities he has met in an effort to highlight their stories over his own.
“It’s not just about their death,” he said. “People learn about who they were, and what these guys sacrificed for the country.”