Kentuckian reportedly nominated for Medal of Honor

ex-marine braved fire retrieving bodies

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comNovember 27, 2010 

Dakota Meyer, who will be honored for his valor in Afghanistan in 2009, is a 2006 graduate of Green County High School.

A Kentucky man and 2006 graduate of Green County High School is in line for the military's top honor, according to a newspaper that covers the Marine Corps.

Dakota Meyer, 22, who is originally from Greensburg but now lives in Columbia, has been nominated by the Marine Corps to receive a Medal of Honor for charging into enemy fire to retrieve the bodies of four of his fellow servicemen during a Sept. 8, 2009, firefight in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, according to the Marine Corps Times.

The publication reported Nov. 10 that Meyer was nominated for the award for valor, an accolade that has been given to only one other living soldier since the Vietnam War.

Meyer had been wounded by shrapnel before going to get three missing Marines and a Navy corpsman, the Marine Corps Times reported. Meyer found the three men dead and carried them out under heavy fire with the help of Afghan soldiers.

Meyer made the charge alone after military pilots spotted the four men in a ditch but could not reach them.

Meyer said Friday that he has not received official confirmation that he has been nominated for the award.

"It's a long shot to receive it," Meyer said. "At the end of the day, it's not about me. I'm absolutely the furthest thing from a hero. I'm just an ordinary guy who got put in extraordinary circumstances and just did my job."

The Marines do not confirm any nominations for awards until the Defense Department makes a formal announcement of the award.

The Marine Corps Times story quoted an anonymous source. But commandant Gen. Jim Amos did confirm to the Times that the Marines had nominated a "great, young courageous" man.

Mike Meyer, Dakota Meyer's father, said his son does not want the award for himself. And the only thing Dakota Meyer really wants is that the men who died that day be remembered.

"It ain't for him," Mike Meyer said. "It's for the family of the guys that didn't make it out."

Dakota Meyer has already received a Purple Heart for his actions that day. He left the Marines in June after completing his four years of active duty. He works for a defense contractor.

The younger Meyer said he wasn't sure why he decided to sign up for the Marines. He played sports at both Adair and Green County high schools. He was accepted at the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University but felt that he wasn't ready to go to college.

Mike Meyer said he wasn't worried when his son told him he wanted to join the Marines.

"He told me he wasn't ready for college," Meyer said. But his son had always seemed to know what was best, Mike Meyer said.

"Whatever he had done in life, he had always been the best at it."

Transition back to civil life hasn't been easy. The most difficult thing about hearing that he had been nominated for the award is talking about the incident, Mike Meyer said.

"The one-year anniversary was hard on him," the elder Meyer said. "He thinks of those guys a lot. He wears two bracelets with their names on it. I've never seen him take them off."

The men whose bodies he retrieved that day were Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, 31; Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30; 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25; Navy Corps. James Layton, 22, and an Afghan soldier they were training.

The incident preceding Meyer's actions has been the subject of a military investigation. According to a McClatchy account, troops were pinned down for hours because Army officials had denied requests for air and other support.

Army officials later blamed "negligent leadership" for the loss of life that day, the Marine Corps Times reported.

If Dakota Meyer receives the Medal of Honor, he will be the second living soldier to receive it for actions during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama on Nov. 16.

Dakota Meyer said he feels fortunate that he was able to return to his close-knit community. "I appreciate everyone being there for me," Meyer said. "It means a lot."

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