Marines Magazine

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Fight to the Finish

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII – Removed from an ambushed platoon of Marines and soldiers in a remote Afghan village on Sept. 8, 2009, his reality viciously shaken by an onslaught of enemy fighters, Cpl. Dakota Meyer simply reacted as he knew best — tackling what he called “extraordinary circumstances” by “doing the right thing … whatever it takes.”

Nearly two years later, the White House announced Aug. 12, 2011, the 23-year-old Marine scout sniper from Columbia, Ky., who has since left the Marine Corps, will become the first living Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor in 38 years. Retired Sgt. Maj. Allan Kellogg, Jr. received the medal in 1973 for gallantry in Vietnam.

Meyer is the second Marine to receive the medal for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Cpl. Jason Dunham was awarded the medal posthumously for covering a grenade with his body to save two Marines in Iraq in 2004. President Barack Obama will present the award to Meyer at the White House, Sept. 15.

“The award honors the men who gave their lives that day, and the men who were in that fight,” Meyer said. “I didn’t do anything more than any other Marine would. I was put in an extraordinary circumstance, and I just did my job.”

Though bleeding from shrapnel wounds in his right arm, Meyer, aided by fellow Marines and Army advisors from Embedded Training Team 2-8, braved a vicious hail of enemy machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire in the village of Ganjgal to help rescue and evacuate more than 15 wounded Afghan soldiers, and recover the bodies of four fallen fighters — 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, Gunnery Sgts. Aaron Kenefick and Edwin Johnson Jr., and Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Layton.

ETT advisor Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., Oct. 7, 2009, from wounds sustained in the firefight.

Meyer charged through the battle zone five times to recover the dead Marines and injured Afghan soldiers, risking his life even when a medical evacuation helicopter wouldn’t land because of the blazing gunfire.

“There’s not a day — not a second that goes by where I don’t think about what happened that day,” Meyer said. “I didn’t just lose four Marines that day; I lost four brothers.”

Author Bing West, a retired Marine infantry officer and combat veteran of Vietnam, detailed Meyer’s actions in the battle in “The Wrong War,” and praised Meyer for taking command of the battle as a corporal — the most junior advisor in this firefight.

West said Meyer should have been killed, but he dominated the battlefield by fearlessly exposing himself to danger and pumping rifle and machine gun rounds into the enemy fighters.

“When you leave the perimeter, you don’t know what’s going to happen, regardless of what war you’re fighting in,” Kellogg, who lives in Kailua, Hawaii, said. “Once you get to a point where you make the decision — ‘I’m probably going to die, so let the party begin’ — once you say in your mind you aren’t getting out of there, you fight harder and harder.”

Beginning his career with the same regiment from which Kellogg retired in 1990, Meyer deployed with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007, and earned a meritorious promotion to corporal in late 2008 after returning from the deployment.

Before leaving for Iraq, Meyer completed the Marine Corps’ 10-week Scout Sniper Basic Course, and committed to preparing himself and his snipers for combat. They attended lifesaving classes taught by Navy corpsmen and honed their skills with myriad weapons systems, such as light machine guns. Meyer also spent time in his battalion’s communications section learning how to call for mortar and artillery fire.

“

I devoted my whole life to making the best snipers in the Marine Corps,” Meyer said. “They’re a direct reflection of your leadership. If you fail them in training, it could get them killed on the battlefield.”

In February 2009, Meyer volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan’s dangerous Kunar province and mentor Afghan soldiers as part of an embedded training team, the type of role usually filled by U.S. Special Forces.

“A Marine who seeks the challenge of joining his unit’s scout sniper platoon has to have a lot of drive and determination,” said Col. Nathan Nastase, commanding officer of 3rd Marine Regiment and formerly Meyer’s battalion commander at 3/3. “Being assigned to the ETT was a huge vote of confidence in his abilities.”

Meyer deployed to Afghanistan with the ETT in July 2009.

“Our mission was to help prepare the Afghans to take over their own country and provide security for themselves,” Meyer said. “ETTs make a huge impact on the outcome of the war.”

In Kunar province, Meyer and another ETT advisor would lead squads of 15 Afghan soldiers on patrols. Since he could speak Pashto, the local language, so well, Meyer often separated from the element along with his Afghan trainees.

When his patrol fought to rescue another from an ambush Sept. 8, 2009, Meyer’s focus on advising gave way to surviving, and on what he had to do to keep himself and his men alive.

“I lost a lot of Afghans that day,” Meyer said. “And I’ll tell you right now — they were just as close to me as those Marines were. At the end of the day, I don’t care if they’re Afghans, Iraqis, Marines or Army; it didn’t matter. They’re in the same shit you are, and they want to go home and see their family just as bad as you do.”

Thrown into unimaginable circumstances, Meyer said the Afghan soldiers and his sniper training “saved my life” during the battle.

Jacody Downey is a close friend of Meyer’s from Kentucky. He’s seen his friend grow from a fun-loving “jokester” in high school to a driven Marine who deeply respected both elders and subordinates.

“Dakota has always cared more about others than he does himself,” Downey said. “Even if he’s not with his Marines now, he’s still constantly thinking about them, worrying about them and calling to check on them. He still considers them brothers.”

Cpl. David Hawkins grew as a Marine under Meyer’s leadership in 3/3’s Scout Sniper Platoon.

“Meyer was an ideal leader,” Hawkins, from Parker, Colo., said. “He knew everything about the Marines underneath him — how they’d respond to every situation, not only on a Marine Corps level but also on a personal level.”

Hawkins said he was deeply humbled by Meyer’s concern as a friend, especially after being injured in Afghanistan last year. Hawkins was severely wounded by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan Sept. 24, 2010. Four days later, he lay static in a stark hospital room, riddled with shrapnel. After groggily emerging from anesthesia into a blurry reality, Hawkins’ phone rang — the first call from a friend. Without fail, Meyer’s jovial drawl broke through the speaker.

“In the Marine Corps, you always hear that if something’s broke, you’ve got to work to fix it, but you never really see the Marine who does it,” Hawkins said. “Meyer is that Marine. If he had something to say, he’d say it, and he wasn’t really afraid of repercussions for what he said. If it needed to be changed, he changed it.

”

Hearing his friend would receive the Medal of Honor didn’t surprise Hawkins. In light of the “character” and “country boy” Hawkins knows, Meyer’s actions were simply the manifestation of how he lived and led.

“Meyer was destined for the Medal of Honor,” Hawkins said. “If you got to work with him, you’d see it.”

Meyer completed his tour on active duty last June. He went home to Kentucky, where he’s found purpose working with his hands in a family business.

“Pouring concrete is kind of like the Marine Corps,” Meyer said. “When you wake up in the morning, you’ve got a job … like a mission. There’s no set standard on how to do things, but you just have to go out there, make decisions and get it done — and that’s like the challenge of the Marine Corps. Once you’re satisfied with what you’ve done, you stop getting better.”

Meyer is the 86th living Medal of Honor recipient, and he joins a small, elite group of heroes, a reality that will often require him to conjure up haunting reminders of the battles he has fought, the friends he has lost and the painful regret he bears.

“I’m not a hero, by any means — I’m a Marine, that’s what I am,” he said. “The heroes are the men and women still serving, and the guys who gave their lives for their country. At the end of the day, I went in there to do the right thing … and it all boils down to doing the right thing … whatever it takes. All those things we learn stick in your head, and when you live by it, that’s the Marine way.”

Though Meyer will receive the Medal of Honor for what he did in Ganjgal, he insists he will wear the five-pointed medallion and blue silk ribbon to honor his fallen brothers, their families and his fellow Marines.

“Being a Marine is a way of life,” Meyer said. “It isn’t just a word, and it’s not just about the uniform — it’s about brotherhood. Brotherhood means that when you turn around, they’re there, through thick and thin. If you can’t take care of your brothers, what can you do in life?”

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  • http://www.ionok.com Oklahoma magazines

     Wow this such a great article and the tips are very comprehensive. For sure many entrepreneurs with small and big businesses are going to benefit from this. Keep it up!

  • Jim

    I wish we had more men like him, Carole. From what I’ve heard though, he is leaving the Marines to pursue other goals in life. I wish him well, but the Marines sure could use guys like him and keep him around. I wish him luck with all he does. God Bless.

  • Hatley9999

    I think that you have spent to long in the Marine Corps if you feel the way you do.  If you have not be written up for any awards then you certainly must not be the best at what you do!!  If you feel the way that you do then why did you reenlist?  I spent 29 years in the Marine Corps and my final rank was First Sergeant and I did write Marines up for awards that deserved them, and I am sure that the senior enlisted in your unit would be happy to set down with you and discuss the reason as to why you have not been written up for any awards.  As to you saying Meyer is not dedicated to our Corps then you still do not know the true meaning of once a Marine always a Marine!  The young Devil Dog is still doing a great deal for the Marine Corps as do a lot of Former Marines who do not decide to make the Marine Corps a career.  I think it is your dedication that is lacking and should think about getting out of the Marine Corps the next time your are up for reenlistment.  I just as the SSgt stated think that we should also have a face to face talk about what it means to be a Marine or better yet I am sure that your own Senior Enlisted leadership would like to have that face to face.

  • Sticks1212

    thank you for all you men and women are doing over in Afghanistan. 

  • Tcard

    I’ve been reading about heroes like him all my life, then comes Sgt. Dakota Meyer at only 23.  What a fine role model to the younger generation.  If this Marine has inspired you, please join him with his “Challenge to America”: to raise $1 million for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation!

  • Pit

    I’m really surprised that the first alive person, who have been awarded by MoH is NOT A WOMAN.

  • http://www.vox-studio.ro Studio Videochat

     Everyone is proud of the marines. They
    have been always doing great job , no matter what the risk was.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000857911102 Dan Maloney

    When asked about his heroic actions, Sgt. Dakota Meyer - living MOH recipient - said, “I’m not a hero . . . I’m a Marine.”  Well, I’m a Marine also and I say, “You’re quite a hero Sgt. Meyer.”

  • SSgt of Marines

    Who are you?  What unit?  You and me should have a face to face talk about your “complaints” !!!

  • Sgt Hammbone

    if you’re a recruit, how are you writing this??? Recruits aren’t supposed to have access to computers.

  • agrees with pissed off Marine

    Joseph Killerman Lewis = DOUCHE.

  • Balmeda

    Learn to use correct grammar before you start correcting others! And if by POG, you are referring to some support Marine that works around the clock to keep the grunts employed, then you should find a little respect for what they do. When I was in Iraq, those guys worked longer hours, and were outside the wire just as often as the grunts!

  • http://www.facebook.com/katharine.evans1 Katharine Evans

    only boyscouts are in it for the medals, and know that all Marines who do their job are doing the job as they volunteered for to protect and not to be hailed.  When you become a sniper, when you go back to claim the 4 bodies of your squad in a hail of gun fire, give this guy a call.  Sounds like you may need an attitude adjustment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katharine.evans1 Katharine Evans

    Valor is defined by this Marines actions, and his humble statements in ‘just doing his job’ shares with us all how all combat harden Marines are exceptional American Men.

  • HM3 Weaver

    Rvndoc69,
    I’m a Corpsman current with 1st MARDIV. I totally agree with you. It is always an honor to be among the best! OOOORAH!! 

  • WomanMarine

    Your grandson is a true hero you raised him right…Semper Fi…marines never brag they dont have to….the do the job they are supposed to do without question or griping….thats what makes marines marines….they will support their fellow marines no matter what….Thank you for your grandson…may God Bless him and his family…..and may he stand with pride today knowing the Marines are behind him…and no one listens to the ramblings of idiots like that guy….highly motivated truly dedicated….Semper Fi….

  • http://marines.dodlive.mil Marine Corps Production

    Ma’am, that email was spam. 3/25 returned from Iraq in 2005. Please disregard or forward to authorities as a prospected scam.

  • Lily

    can anyone tell me,if this man exists.
    Colonel Robert Bay…
    i recently received an email from this person,claiming to be working with the 3r battalion,25th marine regiment that patrols anbar province.

  • Ben

    Sgt. Meyers is an amazing hero and it makes me sick that there is not more media coverage of people like this.  But that is not why Marines do it. They do it for each other…….Marines in the face of combat are the most unselfish people to ever walk the earth.  For all of you future Marines, remember it is not about you ……it is about your fellow Marine.  Your journey in the Corps will take you places you thought you would never go.  You will meet people that will change your life.  I have been lead by hero’s and lead them and it is humbling to be associate with people like these.  You never know who the next Sgt Meyers is.

  • Proud Marine!

    If you think this Marine is lacking dedication you need to go back and re-read this article! Just because you decide to get out and take a different route in your life after giving the Marine Corps and the country almost everything, to include your life, doesn’t mean you are not dedicated. Did you not get the part where he stil makes phone calls to Marines that are injured and stil in? You might have been in for 11 years but I feel that you are still lacking something if you can’t say anything positive about this Marine that did so much. Lastly, ONCE A MARINE, ALWAYS A MARINE!

  • Devildog11

    I have spent 11 yrs in this Corps and have yet to be written up for anything. I am the best at my job and everyone always comes to me when they need something. My higher ups are too lazy to write me up for anything. At least that former Marine is getting what he deserves. Sounds like his dedication is lacking since he decided to get out and become a civilian.

  • Cpl T. Bells (USMC Ret.)

    I served in the Marine Corps myslef and I must say to read a story like this about a fellow DEVIL DOG just makes me proud to be a MARINE and an AMERICAN!!! I salute you Cpl Meyers because you are the true definition of what a MARINE should be!!! Even after being labeled as a hero you stand fast on what the MARINE CORPS beliefs are…. DOING WHAT YOU WAS TRAINED TO DO… I salute and GOD BLESS to you BROTHER…. SEMPER FI…

  • Carole Ferree

    Thank you for your reply to the idiot who is claiming to be a hero.  Dakota is my grandson and he is a very humble person.  You are right he will never brag about what he did.  If you listen to him tell about it, he doesnt consider himself a hero.  He feels like he failed his team by not getting there in time to save them.  In my opinion all the military who are fighting this useless, senseless war are heroes, and deserve our respect, support. Wannabe heroes go play Pogo and get bragging rights by getting high scores.  Leave the real Heroes alone!

  • Benjiet12

    Hey pog his actions where for Sept 8th not 9th….

  • Recruit

    Semper Fi.

  • devil_pup

    the marine dont beg for people and as for your “100 assassination appetmps” i doubt that if they really wanted you then theyd get you soo go back to lieing to your gf nd ur mo cause we dont care

  • devil_pup

    you got that right man!!! ill b joining next year when i turn 17 ive wanted to be a marine since i was 5 and 9-11 happened and ive never changed my mind! people call me pup because im not a devil dog yet im still just a devil pup

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Danny-Gaffin/100001521700516 Danny Gaffin

    I really can’t explain in words how i feel about this except for the fact it gives me cold chills reading about this story and to think you did what you had to do when the time came no matter what the circumstances. I leave Jan. 16 for MCRD. Im pretty sure i know Jacob, if he’s from Adams County. I hope that one day our paths will cross not only as friends, but brothers as part of The Few, The Proud, The United States Marines. God Bless, Semper Fi

  • Shawncolborn

    My Dad and “Brother” are Marines. What a touching story of valor.

  • Rvndoc69

    I was a Navy Corpsman in VietNam with the 1st Marine Div. I am proud to have served with men like Cpl. Meyer. He is a true Hero, and will join all the rest of the Heros the Marine Corps has produced. Like Cpl. Meyer said Marine are taught that no one is left on the battlefield alive or dead. Cpl. Meyer is a  fine example of the best the Marine Corps has produced.
    Sempr FI, AND OOOORAH!

  • Dbombard

    OOORAH Marine !!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/momo.giancana Momo Giancana

    ” This Jar-Head is a Cold Piece of Work..He is the Real Deal..No Doubt..”

  • a pissed off Marine

    Joseph Killerman Lewis…. Who the hell do you think you are, posting a comment like that on this page? This story is about a true hero, not some joker who decides to write about “100 assassination attempts” as if anyone cares about the farfetched tale you wrote. If you had actually been put in a position such as that, you wouldn’t be commenting on a story of a Medal of Honor recipient by talking about yourself. Show some respect toward people who deserve it. You want to learn how to be the best? It starts by taking yourself out of the equation and learning that your accomplishments are an integral part of a team effort, not some extravagant means to impressing people on a public website to try to get spotlight attention. This Marine, this hero, fought for himself and everyone around him. You will never find him bragging about this in his lifetime.

  • Elizabeth

    My Son will graduate  on the 16th of September.Since Jacob was 4 yrs. old that was all he wanted to be is a Marine. I Thank All that have served the familes that stand by them.As a mother I also  stand proud for all that  my son will become and be surrounded by a bigger familyThe Marine Corps.Family.Thank you  from our country and you make us  proud.
                                                                            Soon  to be a proud Marines Mother.

  • http://www.facebook.com/worldmen.website Joseph Killerman Lewis

    I am so proud to hear of this extraordinary fine young man. The great risks he took returning to the line of fire again and again – surely the Lord God was with him and enabled him to achieve what he did. I am a Canadian citizen, who in the winter of 99-2000 worked for pseudo-KATUSA (with both the Korean and U.S. Marine corps) , Reconasaince over a large tract of the country. I saw the hills of North Korea, and travelled extensively over much of the country. There were over 100 assasination attempts against me during that time…and that’s how many lives of U.S. servicemen I saved. All this began with a stolen wallet at an internet cafe in Seoul, and God led me, and enabled me to serve the marines by being in the right places at the right time…like Cpl. Dakota Meyer
    Now the marines want me to join them at Camp Pendleton Marines Battalion. Ever since I saw the very first Marines commercial on cable TV – The Few, The Proud, The Marines – my heart has gone out to these fine men. May God grant them rich blessings and every success!
    I hope I can be a brother to these men, in every way God may enable me.
    God’s richest blessings upon these fine men

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Person/100001449639659 Alan Person

    right now im studying for the asvab to qualify for the marine corps and i just got done reading about this marine and it made me have tears of joy and it makes me proud to become one of the few and the proud ooorah
    god bless the corps
    semper fi
    p.s. i will become a marine i promise to those who read this

  • http://www.facebook.com/wlsisca William L. Sisca Jr

    He says he is not a hero…I disagree.

  • Gunny

    I can not count how many times I have read the account of this young man and his actions on Sept 9.  I can say, I swell with pride everytime I read about him and our many other young warriors doing what they are trained to do…be a Marine, a leader, and take care of the man to your left and right.  Our military, our Corps is full of these young warriors, NCO’s, taking charge and getting the mission accomplished.  I am so proud of them and all they do.  Not enough is ever said or could be said to provide the amount of praise these Devil Dogs deserve.  Good job Marines!  You continue to make me proud and carry on our tradition and heritage of our Corps.  Semper Fidelis!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q7TJQY7ABJ6DJZGIDILCX3VAM4 Dan

    Cpl. Myers goes into Marines Corps history as a hero. It is men like him that gives the Marine Corps a history to be proud of.