Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Happy Birthday to Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota L. Meyer

On September 15, 2011, in the East Room of the White House, President Barack Obama awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer, for his heroic actions on September 8, 2009, when Meyer was just 21 years old.

While on patrol with Afghan security forces, Meyer and his fellow Americans were ambushed from three sides by a large group of insurgents near the village of Ganjgal.  Despite the chaos and death happening around them, Meyer, along with Staff Sergeant Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, jumped into the thick of battle and, when the dust had settled, were responsible for rescuing and providing cover for 36 American and Afghan troops under the most severe combat conditions.

Here's the official Medal of Honor Citation:
Corporal Meyer maintained security at a patrol rally point while other members of his team moved on foot with two platoons of Afghan National Army and Border Police into the village of Ganjgal for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Moving into the village, the patrol was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters firing rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns from houses and fortified positions on the slopes above.
Hearing over the radio that four U.S. team members were cut off, Corporal Meyer seized the initiative. With a fellow Marine driving, Corporal Meyer took the exposed gunner's position in a gun-truck as they drove down the steeply terraced terrain in a daring attempt to disrupt the enemy attack and locate the trapped U.S. team. 

Disregarding intense enemy fire now concentrated on their lone vehicle, Corporal Meyer killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point blank range, as he and his driver made three solo trips into the ambush area. During the first two trips, he and his driver evacuated two dozen Afghan soldiers, many of whom were wounded. When one machine gun became inoperable, he directed a return to the rally point to switch to another gun-truck for a third trip into the ambush area where his accurate fire directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush. 

Despite a shrapnel wound to his arm, Corporal Meyer made two more trips into the ambush area in a third gun-truck accompanied by four other Afghan vehicles to recover more wounded Afghan soldiers and search for the missing U.S. team members. Still under heavy enemy fire, he dismounted the vehicle on the fifth trip and moved on foot to locate and recover the bodies of his team members. 

Corporal Meyer's daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the 6-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy's attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on. His unwavering courage and steadfast devotion to his U.S. and Afghan comrades in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Over 120 of Meyer's family and friends were at the White House that day and they watched along with the Marine's comrades from the Embedded Training Team 2-8, as the President honored this young man's courage.

"Because of your honor, 36 men are alive today. Because of your courage, four fallen American heroes came home, and -- in the words of James Layton’s mom -- they could lay their sons to rest with dignity," said President Obama.  "Because of your commitment -- in the thick of the fight, hour after hour -- a former Marine who read about your story said that you showed how 'in the most desperate, final hours…our brothers and God will not forsake us.'"

"And because of your humble example, our kids -- especially back in Columbia, Kentucky, in small towns all across America -- they’ll know that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can do great things as a citizen and as a member of the American family."

Dakota Meyer is out of the Marines and, in addition to work and many other activities, in now blogging at Actions Not Words.

Today is his 24th birthday and Dakota writes about what his life has been like over the last year and his commitment to living life to the fullest out of respect for his friends who did not make it home alive.

"I'll never know why my guys died and why I survived.  But I do know that I was given the opportunity to continue living for myself and for each of them," writes Meyer today. " Celebrating another year of life is a bit of struggle for me when I know my guys will never have the chance.  But, as I've said before, you can see situations in life as obstacles or as opportunities.  I choose to see the opportunity and to make the most of it."

The word 'hero' is tossed around a bit too freely these days but when you speak of people like Meyer and other Medal of Honor recipients, you're acknowledging the people for whom that word is truly intended.

Happy Birthday, Dakota Meyer.

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