Kentucky native, Dakota Meyer, of the United States Marine Corps, will receive the honorary Medal of Honor Thursday due to his heroic actions while serving in Afghanistan in 2009.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award of recognition in the armed forces. It is awarded to those who perform an act of pure courage while in combat.
Meyer, 22, earned this award while on tour in Afghanistan, his second time in combat with a previous tour in Iraq. At the time, he was part of a joint-operation unit mission, consisting of American soldiers, Marines, the 201st Corps of the Afghan National Army and 2nd Kandak of the Afghan Border Police, according to the Marine Corps Times.
Upon hearing of the ambush and disappearance of three missing Marines and one Navy Corpsman, Meyer, along with Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, took on the rescue.
Crossing known-enemy territory into the Ganjgal village in the Kunar province, he discovered more than the four missing persons were there.
Despite Meyer’s best efforts, he discovered his comrades dead and without their gear. Those killed in the September battle were Edwin Johnson, 31; Michael Johnson, 25; Aaron Kenefick, 30; James Layton, 22; an Afghan interpreter and at least eight Afghan security forces members.
Meyer said although the chances of the captives being alive were known to be low, the thought of finding them otherwise never crossed his mind.
“I never once in the whole time thought they were all dead,” Meyer said. “I don’t know if that’s just me lying to myself, or just disbelief, or what it is. But, I never thought they’d all be dead. I thought somebody would be alive, you know?”
Meyer said all of the captives had to be rescued, even if they were not American-born.
“I lost a lot of Afghans that day,” he 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 (situation) you are, and they want to go home and see their family just as bad as you do.”
Meyer’s heroic actions set his name in the United States Armed Forces. James F. Amos, General in the 35th Commandment of the Marine Corps, said Meyer’s actions helped set a new tone for the future generations of recruits.
“Sgt. Meyer’s heroic actions on Sept. 8, 2009 in the Ganjgal village in Afghanistan serve as an inspiration to all Marines,” he said. “This will forever be etched in our Corps rich legacy of courage and valor.”
Meyer was born in Greensburg, Ky., in 1988 and graduated from Green County High School.
He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2006, and wrapped up his basic training at the Parris Island Recruit Training Depot.
Currently working with a construction company in Kentucky, Meyer said he was honored to receive the recognition but he mainly just wants to get his life started.
Said Meyer: “This has been going on for two years. It’ll be good to finally get this over with and go on to the next chapter.”