Former active-duty Marine to be awarded Medal of Honor on Sept. 15
By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 12, 2011
WASHINGTON — Dakota Meyer, the first living Marine to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan, will be honored with the award at a White House ceremony Sept. 15, administration officials announced late Friday.
Meyer, who braved intense enemy gunfire in Afghanistan to recover the bodies of four fallen comrades, will be the third living recipient of the award for actions in Afghanistan and the 10th man recognized for exceptional bravery in the current wars.
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.
A Defense Department investigation released five months later said that negligent leadership and a command refusal for artillery support directly contributed to the deaths of Meyer’s fellow fighters, and reprimanded three Army officers.
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 could not be reached for comment. White House officials said his family will attend the Sept. 15 event “to commemorate his example of selfless service.”
He already received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the battle.
In Friday’s announcement, officials noted that Meyer served as a scout sniper and trained as a combat lifesaver who 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.
Meyer had been rumored to be on the military’s short list for the Medal of Honor since last fall. After years without any living medal recipients for the current wars, the White House has already awarded two living recipients with the highest military honor since last fall: former Army Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry.