A recent article by McClatchy Newspapers has brought into question the heroic actions that led to the decision to award the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Dakota Meyer on Sept. 15, 2011.
This is the latest in a series of disappointing articles by the news service to cast doubt on Meyer's actions and the exhaustive review process associated with the award.
The Marine Corps has full confidence in the veracity of the accounts of the extraordinary heroism demonstrated by Meyer on Sept. 8, 2009, on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The facts of this case are clear, compelling and have been documented through the rigorous investigative process that accompanies all combat awards.
In this case, two Army investigations, numerous eyewitness statements, a command inquiry and other supporting documents have verified the accounts of Meyer's actions. Senior leaders have interviewed eyewitnesses, and their accounts are consistent and corroborated. The descriptions of that day by Marines and other service members aided or, in some cases, saved by Meyer form a compelling composite of courage under fire and extraordinary heroism.
Eyewitness accounts include a Marine captain who was a member of the ambushed patrol, stating, "I was providing him (Meyer) covering fires when I witnessed him run into the village alone and return carrying the lifeless body of one of our fallen Marines." Similarly, an Army helicopter pilot who flew overhead during the battle notes, "Meyer was the driving force behind that recovery effort, if he had not done what he did we may not have recovered those Marines at all. I watched him brave enemy fire several times to recover his comrades that had fallen on the field."
These accounts are typical of the reactions of other service members present and engaged in the battle.
The facts describing the event are documented and confirmed. In a protracted battle spread across long distances there invariably will be unique recollections of the event; each differing in small detail and each real in the mind of the participant.
While it is impossible to reconcile every detail in these separate accounts, the portrait of heroism that emerges from the multiple investigations is clear. American service members performed under extreme conditions that day, many exhibiting a level of bravery well above and beyond the call of duty. Among the displays of valor and dedication, Meyer's efforts stand out. In short, at great risk to his own life, Meyer demonstrated a level of heroism and courage deserving of our nation's highest award for valor.
Observations made by participants in this battle do not support any conclusion other than what has been validated by multiple investigations. The Marine Corps has full confidence in the facts concerning the actions of Meyer in this battle and rejects McClatchy's shameful attempt to distort or denigrate his heroic and selfless actions.
Maj. Al Eskalis is media relations director for the Marines.