Setting the record straight on Dakota Meyer, Medal of Honor recipient-to-be

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Dakota Meyer, photographed at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., in November. (Photo by Rob Curtis/Staff)

With the dust starting to settle, it’s time to set the record straight about Dakota Meyer, who will become the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in decades.

As someone who has covered the fallout of the Sept. 8, 2009, ambush in Gangjal, Afghanistan, since days after it occurred, I’ve noticed a variety of inaccuracies work their way into stories about the incident, Meyer’s service and the Medal of Honor process. Many of them cite my story last week that confirmed the award decision had been made, so it seems fair for to correct the record.

Let’s look at a few inaccuracies:

Meyer will be the first living Marine in 41 years to receive the Medal of Honor.

That’s a falsehood, and since it was reported by the Associated Press, it has been appeared in dozens, if not hundreds, of news accounts.

I reported last week that Meyer would be the first living Marine recipient of the award since now-retired Sgt. Maj. Allan Kellogg received the medal for actions for 41 years ago in Vietnam. I assume that’s where the 41-year figure comes from, but there’s nuance there that can’t be left out.

It’s true that Kellogg was honored for valor 41 years ago on March 11, 1970, but he received the medal from President Nixon at the White House on Oct 15, 1973. That means it has been about 38 years since the last living recipient received the Medal of Honor.

Meyer acted as a sniper in the battle.

Meyer was an infantry rifleman in the Corps, and trained as scout sniper, too. During the Battle of Ganjgal, however, he was serving as a member of an embedded training team, and never functioned as a sniper. There were snipers providing overwatch during the battle, but they were with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

On a related note, some media accounts said Meyer was in Afghanistan at the time with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. As Marine Corps Times previously reported, Meyer was with 3/3 before his deployment in 2009, but volunteered for the training team assignment instead of deploying to Iraq for a second time.

Meyer currently lives in Austin, Texas.

I’ll take the heat for this one. In Marine Corps Times’ initial story posted last week, I reported that Meyer lived in Austin. Meyer shared that detail with me in April, but subsequently moved back to his hometown of Greensburg, Ky., a few months later. He couldn’t be reached for comment last week, but I have subsequently verified and corrected our initial story. The first report led to confusion for some Texas news outlets.

Meyer was a sergeant in the battle.

Some media outlets have reported that Meyer was a sergeant in the battle, while others say he was a corporal.

The truth is, he was a corporal at the time, and left active-duty service as one in June 2010. He has subsequently been promoted to sergeant while in the Individual Ready Reserve, an organization in which Marines can be called back to active-duty service, but rarely are. He wore sergeant’s stripes at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball last year.

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About Author

I’m a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

20 Comments

  1. Lennox Barton on

    Great report on giving us the correct facts. Thank you and keep up the good work.

    Semper Fi

    Retired MSgt. Barton

  2. To all you fine young men serving in our military, I salute and thank you for your service. President Reagan said, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world, but the U.S. Armed Forces don’t have that problem.” Sgt. Meyer is like all true heroes. He doesn’t look at what he did as anything more than his buddies would have done and the truly heroic are the ones not coming back. Sgt. Meyer, I’m glad there are heroes like you that make this 62 year old man shed a tear for being proud for what you did. Semper Fi.

  3. It has been stated in the media that Sgt. Meyer “retired” from the Marine Corps. Is that correct? Don’t believe he served the minimum 20 years. Please clarify. Thanks.

  4. Why do most of the story’s about this say he retired from the Marine Corps? Last time I heard you can’t retire until you put in 20 years or are medically retired. Was he medically retired?

    How many years active did he put in? 4?

  5. It is always good to make sure that any journalism is accurate. It should also be checked for spelling and grammar. You might want to correct this one: “so it seems fair for to correct the record.”

    Thanks for the information.

  6. Pingback: A Marine is awarded the Medal of Honor « My Strong Medicine

  7. msgt (ret) miller on

    My congratulations to Marine Sgt. Meyer, absolutely job well done. I, being a combat veteran of ‘nam highly respects my miliitary . In adding to this story, the Army times says that army cpt.Wm. Swenson made every step with sgt. Meyer and is getting nothing in recognition for his efforts.

    possiability reason that Cpt. Swenson was critical of higher ups for not supportig the mission when the team was attacked.and , now as a result the U.S, Army has lost a great leader.as well the corps has lost a great Marine.

    when the POS’s that we have for leaders in congress (97% has never served)that constrains our military as in this situation leaves the political correctiveness as was reported in Somalia with then POTUSA (Draft dodger) bill clinton caused Rangers to die, gets out of the way and let’s our men serve, the usa will be better off.I better stop, you get the message,

    old sarge Miller’nam vet/lrrp/abn

  8. BRAVO! All of our military people are heroes, thank you so much for serving. Every day of FREEDOM is America’s reward. Stay safe and God Bless!

  9. I understand today that then Cpl. Meyer, together with his driver, (Chavez, sorry, rank unknown, returned more than five times in six hours of engaging insugents rescued more than 36 soldiers, about 2 dozen of whom were Afghan soldiers, and the others being Marines. These rescues were in addition to bring back 4 men from his unit who did not survive. Thank you, sir.

  10. Would I be out of line, asking to know more about, who and how all of them were sent into an ambush? I know an ambush is always a possibilty. More than that, why in the heell, were they denied air support or back up. I’m not military, but, what were the commanders, really thinking .

  11. john killingsworth on

    I have no idea how this guy can even walk with that big of balls. What the hell is he going back to some menial construction job anyway when he has proven that he has more of what the marines worship than most could dream of. FIND THIS GUY A JOB TRAINING MARINES, get him the best training for leadership and keep him out of the action. He has shown he needs to be showing other marines how to be what all real men would hope and pray to be in a dangerous situation.

  12. Peter Macdonald on

    Editors Violate readers Trust

    To censor the facts that a 100% combat related disabled US Marine and his wife put their life savings to help other US Military Veterans come home mentally as well as physically just does not make since. WE just purchased eleven acres of water front property to build a Veteran Resort-Chapel where free of charge homeless veteran’s will have a cabin of their own to live in and campsites will be set for other Veterans and their families to come and bond. There will be a lot of open space where one can build on their religious spirits, or just learn how to be a family after coming home from war. It is hard for those that have never been to accept a Veteran helping other Veterans for to see would mean not just to listen but hear what we are saying also. Newspapers censoring the words of a US Military Veteran or any person take away the right only God should have the power to do. Freedom of Speech is not the editor’s choice.

    I volunteered many years in schools and communities teaching children trash formation art. I have treasured this art and refused to sell it to this point. The Veterans Resort-Chapel is worth my selling my 2’x12″x6″ hand carved and crafted Concord Stage Coach with driver, passages inside and draft horses in full harness pulling it. The piece of art will go to the highest bidder and all the money will go to help proceed on the Veteran Resort-Chapel. I created this art to not only help children but it was my self-imposed way to learn how to come back. PTSD and TBI two of my four service-connected disabilities took everything away that was here. The US Military and the VA dropped me into a society that scorned and rejected us. Citizens back here hated us for what it was the news media’s false or biased reporting that blamed the military not the politicians. Editors to censor the facts violate the reader’s trust, as it has become the norm more and more over the years.

    The news is so biased that to stop my free speech NH and the VA have stopped my medical care for combat related disabilities. These government wrongs, which should be front-page in every newspaper across the USA, are censored. The NH Supreme Court violated the Constitution to protect judge Peter Favuer. I presented a case to the NH SC and they refused to accept it. Fauver criminally used the power of the court to help the Madbury NH selectmen use the trust of the citizens to take from local residents for personal gain. Editors violate the reader’s trust by censoring these facts.

    Now the editors believe harming US Military Veterans in NH is OK if they are protecting a few elite citizens over the rights of the majority. It cannot be tolerated editors believing it is their god given right to violate the reader’s trust. The people have a right to know that a US Military Veteran has come home and wants others to have the same chance. Our life savings is worth it if just one has the chance to come home.

    Peter Macdonald Sgt USMC Semper Fi

    465 Packers falls Rd Lee NH 03824 603-781-3839

    To censor this opinion letter of editor’s and government wrongs is just wrong.

  13. http://www.Google.com/site/veteranresortchapel

    Violent letters being ignored by this civilized society may be it is time for communication to solve problems in place of violence. I do not believe in violence since coming back from the Vietnam conflict. What I do know is that with four disabilities from the Marine Corps stopping my medical care for said injuries is uncalled for as government retribution to stop my opinion letters of government wrongs. It is the free will of the people to intrepid my letters as they wish. May be to look and see the criminal wrongs no one wants to address is a good start to a solution avoiding violence. Many US Military Veterans just like me (but they) because of circumstances loose their family, friends, job to become homeless on the street in direct response of the effects of protecting and defending your freedom. The Veterans Administration ignores or rejects these men and women for budget or pet project reasons, as the blind eye of the public does not see. The contempt the public feels for my suicide attempts wishing one to be successful detract from the PTSD and TBI disabilities to outrage the public in fear.

    Freedom of the Press is so biased to censor my opinion letters of government wrongs they ignore my wife putting our life savings up to help other US Military Veterans and their family’s from avoiding the above homeless out come. The web address at the beginning is my Concord Stage Coach up for sale to help pay for the Veteran Resort Chapel yet the news media will not inform the public of a citizen giving everything to help other US Military mentally and physically come home if at all possible. I have a head injury as well as Combat PTSD. Law enforcement as well as government officials including the VA use my mental state as a weapon to harm my character in the public eye. Homeless US Military Veterans become that way from this very scenario. US Military Veterans become homeless because society will not hear what we say as they listen. I have no idea what I was as a child when I left to be a US Marine. I am sixty years old and this civilized society still cannot accept what I have done just like that one that spit on me as I got off the plane coming home so long ago.

    I write as a form of communication to tell others of government wrongs. To use violence has no place in a civilized society. The NH Supreme Court violated the Constitution and to cover it up criminal wrongs are inflicted by law enforcement and government officials believing citizens like me are not allowed to confront the special class of society. The NH SC refuses to hear a case where Judge Peter Fauver used the law to help the Madbury NH selectmen take from local residents for the selectmen’s own gains cannot be tolerated.

    To have any government, law enforcement or citizen use my mental state to harm my character to gain public support against me cannot be tolerated. My wife and I want to build a Veteran Resort-Chapel for some of the 600 homeless US Military Veterans to live free of charge so may be some day they will truly come home. Violence is our past we become homeless to keep it with in for your safety. You have no idea what I just said as you listen but do not hear.

    Peter Macdonald Sgt USMC Semper Fi

    465 Packers falls rd Lee NH 03824 603-781-3839

  14. Ernest Martinez on

    @Tommy Sands: perhaps SGT Meyer recieved a Medical Discharge under Honorable conditions. Keep in mind he revealed his PTSD and tried suicide over the firefight in Gangjal. BRAVO ZULU SGT Meyer.

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