WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2011 – President Barack Obama today draped
the pale blue ribbon suspending the Medal of Honor around the neck
of Marine Corps Sgt. Dakota L. Meyer, the first living Marine to
receive the award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama enjoys a beer with Dakota Meyer on the patio outside of the Oval Office, Sept. 14, 2011. The President presented Meyer with the Medal of Honor tomorrow during a ceremony at the White House
on Sept. 15, 2011. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
“It's been said that where there is a brave man, in the
thickest of the fight, there is the post of honor,” the
commander in chief said. “Today we pay tribute to an
American who placed himself in the thick of the fight again,
and again, and again.”
Obama said Meyer, who is now
23 and was just 21 that day in Afghanistan, is “one of the
most down-to-earth guys you will ever meet.”
president's staff called the young Marine so the commander
in chief could officially notify him of the medal, Obama
said, Meyer was at work on his new civilian job at a
“He felt he couldn't take the call
right then because, he said, ‘If I don't work, I don't get
paid,'” Obama said.
“So we arranged to make sure he
got the call during his lunch break,” the president added.
Obama then turned to the events of Sept. 8, 2009, the
day Meyer earned the medal as a corporal serving with Marine
Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command
3-7, in Kunar province, Afghanistan.
dawn, a patrol of Afghan forces and their American trainers,
on foot and making their way through a narrow valley, was
planning to meet with a group of village elders, the
“Suddenly, all over the valley, the
lights go out – and that's when it happens,” Obama said.
a mile away, Meyer and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez
could hear the ambush over the radio.
from houses, the hillsides, and even the local school, Obama
Soon, the patrol was pinned down, taking
ferocious fire from three sides. “Men were being wounded and
killed, and four Americans – Dakota's friends – were
surrounded,” he said.
After asking four times to go
closer to the fight and help, and hearing each time that it
was too dangerous, the two Marines got inside a nearby
Humvee and headed into the fight, Rodriguez-Chavez at the
wheel and Meyer manning the gun turret.
defying orders, but they were doing what they thought was
right,” the president said.
On two solo trips into
the ambush area, Meyer repeatedly got out of the Humvee to
help Afghan troops, many wounded, inside the vehicle and
back to safety.
“A third time they went back,
insurgents running right up to the front of the Humvee,
Dakota fighting them off,” Obama said.
This time, the
men drove right up to the line of fire, and helped a group
of wounded Americans battle their way to safety.
then headed back on the fourth trip with Meyer wounded in
the arm and the vehicle riddled with bullets and shrapnel,
the president said.
“Dakota later confessed, ‘I
didn't think I was going to die, I knew I was.' But still,
they pushed on, finding the wounded [and] delivering them to
safety,” Obama said.
On the fifth trip, the two
Marines drove through fire “that seemed to come from every
window, every doorway, every alley,” he said.
Finally, the two reached the four Americans who had been
“Dakota jumped out and he ran toward
them, drawing all those enemy guns toward himself; bullets
kicking up the dirt all around him,” Obama said.
Meyer and others who had joined him picked up the fallen
Marines and, “through all those bullets, all the smoke, all
the chaos, carried them out one by one – because as Dakota
says, that's what you do for a brother,” the commander in
“Dakota says he'll accept this medal in
their name,” the president said. “So today, we remember the
husband who loved the outdoors, Lt. Michael Johnson; the
husband and father they called ‘Gunny J,' Gunnery Sgt. Edwin
Johnson; the determined Marine who fought to get on that
team, Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick; the medic who gave his life
tending to his teammates, Hospitalman 3rd Class James
Layton; and a soldier wounded in that battle who was never
recovered: Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook.”
said while he knows Meyer has thought of himself as a
failure because some of his teammates didn't come home, “as
your commander in chief, and on behalf of everyone here
today and all Americans, I want you to know it's quite the
“Because of your honor, 36 men are alive
today,” the president said. “Because of your courage, four
fallen American heroes came home, and in the words of James
Layton's mom, [their families] could lay their sons to rest
Meyer's father, Mike, grandparents,
and more than a hundred friends and family members attended
Because of Meyer's humble example,
children all across America will know that “no matter who
you are or where you come from, you can do great things as a
citizen and a member of the American family,” the president
The commander in chief then asked
Rodriguez-Chavez, now a gunnery sergeant, and all those
present at the ceremony who served with Meyer, to stand “and
accept the thanks of a grateful nation.”
in the applause.
before the citation reading and medal presentation, Obama
said, “Every member of our team is as important as the other
– that's a lesson that we all have to remember, as citizens
and as a nation, as we meet the tests of our time here at
home and around the world. To our Marines, to all our men
and women in uniform, to our fellow Americans, let us always
Meyer, who has left the active Marine
Corps, and is a sergeant in the Inactive Reserve, is the
298th Marine ever to have received the medal, created during
the Civil War. The nation's highest military honor, the
Medal of Honor is awarded for risk of life in combat beyond
the call of duty.
Meyer is the third living service
member to receive the Medal of Honor for actions during the
Iraq and Afghanistan wars, following Army Staff Sgt.
Salvatore A. Giunta, who received the medal Nov. 16, 2010,
and Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, who accepted the award
Of ten Medal of Honor recipients for actions
during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, the only other Marine
is Cpl. Jason E. Dunham, who died April 22, 2004, of wounds
received when he covered a live grenade with his own body to
save the lives of fellow Marines in Iraq. Dunham's parents
accepted his posthumous Medal of Honor Jan. 11, 2007.
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
President Obama's Medal of Honor
Presentation to Dakota Meyer
| Poem >
Hero Of The Corps
Dakota Meyer's Heroic
Story in His Own Words with Comments by Family and Friends
about Dakota Meyer, Medal of Honor Recipient