Obama Awards Medal of Honor To Dakota Meyer

In 2009, 21-year-old Marine Corps Corporal Dakota Meyer defied orders and repeatedly braved enemy fire to save the lives of three dozen U.S. and Afghan service members. Today, Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” becoming the first Marine to receive the honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In the East Room of the White House, the president said that it was fitting that today’s ceremony occurred just days after the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks “because in Sergeant Dakota Meyer, we see the best of a generation that has served with distinction through a decade of war.”

In September of 2009, Meyer charged into the kill zone five times during an ambush in Kunar Province, Afghanistan in search of four of his missing friends. Meyer ultimately helped rescue 36 Afghan and U.S. troops. Despite being shot in the arm, Meyer also killed eight Taliban attackers as he continued the search for his comrades. He later confessed, “I didn’t think I was going to die.  I knew I was.”

When he finally came across the bodies of his four friends who had perished in the fight, he carried them out one by one.

“I know that you’ve grappled with the grief of that day; that you’ve said your efforts were somehow a ‘failure’ because your teammates didn’t come home.  But as your Commander-in-Chief, and on behalf of everyone here today and all Americans, I want you to know it’s quite the opposite.  You did your duty, above and beyond, and you kept the faith with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps that you love,” the president said.

Meyer is the third living recipient to receive the nation’s highest military honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. One of the other two recipients, Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry was at today’s ceremony.

The president described the Kentucky native as “one of the most down-to-Earth guys that you will ever meet.” Obama explained how when the White House staff tried to arrange a phone call so the president could inform Meyer that he would be receiving the honor, Meyer told them they would need to wait until his lunch break. “I do appreciate, Dakota, you taking my call,” Obama said.

Over the weekend, when the president’s staff called Meyer to work out the final details of the ceremony, he asked if he could meet the president for a beer. When Obama heard the request, he obliged and the two sat outside the Oval Office yesterday and enjoyed a beer.

“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,” Obama said today.

Meyer completed his active-duty commitments in 2010 and currently serves as a sergeant in the Inactive Ready Reserve of the Marine Corps.