Sgt Meyer will receive the MOH at the White House on Thursday 15 September. On Friday 16 September

there will be evening parade in his honor at 8th & I.

Marine's uncommon valor in Afghanistan garners Medal of Honor Cpl. Dakota Meyer fought to save his

friends on "worst day" of his life

San Diego Gretel C. Kovach Cpl. Dakota Meyer was the youngest on the team assigned to

mentor Afghan security forces. Until that day, the 21-year-old Marine's worst firefight had been in

the video game Call of Duty. But Meyer was known for his single-minded determination, even before he

joined the Corps. When men he considered to be his brothers, Americans and Afghans, were trapped under

heavy fire in Ganjgal, a village in the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, Meyer felt he had no

choice. His deeds on Sept. 8, 2009, during that six-hour battle made the Commandant of the Marine

Corps misty eyed. Others said Meyer ranks alongside the greatest Marines in history, including Gunnery

Sgt. John Basilone. For his actions, Meyer will be awarded the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the

White House on Sept. 15, making him the first living Marine to receive the distinction since 1973 and

the Vietnam War. Since the first was awarded in 1863 to an Army private who served in the Civil War,

3,457 people have earned our nation's highest honor for valor in combat, according to the

Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Only 84 of them are alive today. The Afghan troops and their

Marine advisers had arrived before dawn to sip tea and negotiate with the village elders, while U.S.

Army soldiers secured the ridge. Instead, they walked into an ambush. Old men, women and children

scurried from their homes. The lights blinked off. Then Taliban fighters who had bunkered overnight

for them in rock terraces and tiered stone houses flanking the road unleashed a barrage of fire power

plunging into the valley. Four men from the Marine advisory team in the lead were pinned down, with no

air support or artillery immediately forthcoming. "If [you] don't give me this air support, we are

going to die out here!" Marine 1st Lt. Michael Johnson yelled into the radio. "They're all around us!"

said Marine Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, in one of the last reports heard from the advisers. Embedded

Training Team 2-8 was a pickup crew pulled from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force headquartered in

Okinawa, Japan. Meyer, a scout sniper who previously served in Iraq, came from Marine Corps Base

Hawaii. The team quickly grew close serving in Kunar Province, as men at war often do. Meyer was on

the outskirts in his Humvee gun truck that day in Ganjgal. He asked for permission to move into the

battle. His request was denied, four times. Finally, he went anyway, braving a hell-storm of bullets

to find his friends. Meyer manned the gun and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez drove. Meyer knew they

might not return. "Well, I guess we'll die with them," he said, encouraging Rodriguez-Chavez to drive

on. As they punched into the fusillade, their vehicle drew enemy firepower like a lightning rod.

Mortars crunched beside them. Bullets ricocheted off their truck and chipped stones, while rocket-

propelled grenades exploded in the air. As they ventured into the ravine, Meyer repeatedly hopped off

the truck to drag wounded Afghan soldiers inside. He fired his machine guns and grenade launcher until

they jammed or ran out of ammunition, pushing back the enemy so American and Afghan troops could

escape the ravine. Young jihadist fighters with long beards swarmed the vehicle, close enough to

touch, before Meyer shot them dead. Once, twice, five times in all, they charged into the "kill zone"

encircled by enemy fighters, and returned. Shrapnel sent blood running down his arm, but Meyer kept up

the search. Where are they? Where? That was the only thought in his mind. Meyer dismounted the truck

and ran house to house under fire, looking for the missing men. Finally, with help from a helicopter

crew that arrived hours into the fight, he found them in a ditch.

1st Lt. Johnson, 25, and Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, 31, were both CrossFit die-hards, always working

out. Kenefick, 30, was known for his seriousness. And a Navy corpsman, Hospitalman 3rd Class James

Layton, 22, "he was a special guy," Meyer recalled. He was the youngest on the team after Meyer, and

the pair liked to pull pranks on each other. All four had been shot dead. One by one, Meyer slung them

over his shoulders. He grabbed a lifeless arm and a leg in his hands, and carried them out. Meyer

saved the lives of 13 Marines and 23 Afghan soldiers, and he killed at least eight insurgents that

day. "I don't remember being afraid. But looking back on it now, it's pretty crazy," Meyer said. "I

didn't have any idea I was even getting shot at. It was only like about 150 people shooting at me. I

couldn't even tell." "Nobody can say what they would do until they're in that situation. But it's what

I trained to do. My brothers were in there," he said. "I wouldn't expect less from anyone else in that

situation." Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, said: "Meyer embodies all that is good about

our nation's Corps of Marines. He is a living example of the brave young men and women whose service,

fidelity and sacrifice make us so proud." Bing West, a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War and

former assistant secretary of defense, wrote about Meyer in his book, "The Wrong War," saying: "For a

man to charge into fire once requires grit that is instinctive in few men ... to go in a fourth time

is to know you will die; to go in a fifth time is beyond comprehension." Meyer doesn't feel like a

hero. It was the worst day of his life. Five Americans died, including a soldier with the 10th

Mountain Division, Sgt.
1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, 41, who later succumbed to wounds. Eight Afghan soldiers and border

police also died, and an Afghan interpreter. "It's kind of hard to feel like a hero when you go in

there to do something and get your guys out and you go home, and every one of them is dead," he said.

After the White House announced this month that Meyer would be awarded the Medal of Honor, he agreed

to speak to a number of media organizations, including The San Diego Union-Tribune. His bravery was

"straight from our history pages of what guys did at Belleau Wood and Iwo Jima and places like that,"

said Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, Marine Corps deputy director of public affairs. But speaking of that day,

"it crushes him. It takes a pound of flesh each time." Dakota Meyer said he is ready to move on, but

he will never forget that day in Afghanistan. - USMC Meyer's nightmares returned, and they called off

the media engagements. Meyer said he spoke out for one reason, to honor his friends who died in

Ganjgal, their families and all the men and women serving in combat, "to show how men and women are

over there fighting every day. "It's for them, to let America realize what's going on," he said. The

recognition is bigger than one man, bigger than Meyer, said 1st Sgt. Daniel Krause, 36, a Camp

Pendleton Marine who was injured by mortar fire in Musa Qalah, Afghanistan, last summer, and was later

awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device. "It's his award. He is the one who will wear it around his

neck. His name will be in the history books forever. But it's also for those Marines that day that

won't be able to celebrate," Krause said, speaking of the fallen. "He is honoring them with their

loss." Meyer will be the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in the current wars,

after two soldiers who served in Afghanistan: Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and Army Sgt. 1st Class

Leroy Petry. Nine people have been awarded the Medal of Honor for combat in Iraq or Afghanistan to

date. The only Marine among them is Cpl. Jason Dunham,
22, who was fatally wounded in 2004 in Iraq serving with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment from

Twentynine Palms, when he threw his body on a grenade to protect several Marines. "I think it was long

overdue for one of our guys that are living to get it, for all the things that we have done.

Especially a young Marine," said retired Sgt. Maj. Dave Francisco, 50, of Oceanside, a combat veteran

and former drill instructor. Francisco attended the June ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine

Corps near Quantico, Va., for two others from Meyer's team honored for action in Ganjgal. Staff Sgt.

Rodriguez-Chavez, 34, and Capt. Ademola Fabayo, 30, were awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest

award for valor in combat. "Our kids are just as tough, just as mean and just as gritty as the ones

who went before us. It's the same cut of cloth," Francisco said. Meyer, now 23, left the Corps last

year after his contract expired and was subsequently promoted to sergeant in the Individual Ready

Reserve. He moved back to the family farm near Columbia, Ky., and pours concrete for a living. He is

looking forward to the day when the president of the United States lays the blue silk ribbon and five

-pointed medallion around his neck. "I'll be glad to get it over with," he said. "I need to move on."

Meyer lost a lot of men that day. It didn't matter to him whether they were American, Afghan, soldier

or Marine - they were all in it together. He tries not to, but "there's nothing you can do about it,"

Meyer said. "I think about it every day."
Brophy Monday 12 September 2011 - 7:04 pm | | Kearsarge Marines

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