Thoughts on the ’60 Minutes’ piece with Dakota Meyer

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President Obama presents Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House on Sept. 15. (Photo by Rob Curtis/Staff)

Last night, the messy background behind Sgt. Dakota Meyer’s Medal of Honor was reintroduced to the nation.

In a 15-minute piece on “60 Minutes,” CBS reporter David Martin outlined what went wrong in the six-hour battle in Ganjgal, Afghanistan, that led to Meyer taking his life in his hands on Sept. 8, 2009, in an attempt to save as many Afghan and American forces as he could from the teeth of a well planned ambush.

The clip is up here:

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Some of the details reported last night will be common knowledge to those who have tracked Ganjgal, but there were some new details.

The Army Center for Lessons Learned training video of the account had not been widely distributed, for example. CBS also tracked down retired Col. Richard Hooker, one of the two officers who investigated the leadership failures that played a key role in what went wrong. Meyer himself also described what happened with refreshing candor, as painful as it is.

Readers of Marine Corps Times, Bing West’s “The Wrong War,” and some of McClatchy reporter Jonathan Landay’s initial reporting on the battle will know much more about the failures and frustration that day, however.

Since late 2009, I’ve actually written four Marine Corps Times cover stories that focused heavily on Ganjgal (note: I’ve linked them below), along with about 20 other shorter pieces.

There’s always another thread to pull on with the story. What about the reprimands? What about awards that are still pending? It’s a messy situation, and it still isn’t all resolved.

Martin’s piece last night does the story — and the families involved — a great service. It elevates Ganjgal’s profile yet again, adding in a lot of things that didn’t come up last week when President Obama awarded Meyer the nation’s top valor award.

Already today, The Associated Press has jumped on the story, leveraging comments that Gold Star family members Susan Price and Charlene Westbrook made on “60 Minutes.” They’ve shared their thoughts before, but this time it’s with a recently awarded Medal of Honor in the national consciousness.

It’s hard to say what’s next. Already, the Battle of Ganjgal has become a signature moment in the Afghanistan war, and that’s without considering the Medal of Honor case pending for Will Swenson, the Army captain who assisted Meyer in bringing home the bodies of four Americans killed in the battle.

If Swenson receives the award, it’d mark the first time since 1993’s Battle of Mogadishu that two service members receive the Medal of Honor for actions in the same fight. In yet another way, Ganjgal would become Afghanistan’s “Blackhawk Down.”

We’re watching history unfold before our eyes. It’s just shame it has to be so painful.

Previous Marine Corps Times cover stories on Ganjgal

Families outraged over engagement restrictions

Report: Army denied aid to team under fire

Heroism in ambush may yield top valor awards

MoH nominee says he does not feel like a hero

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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.

9 Comments

  1. I watched this report in horror last evening. My husband was severely wounded in Iraq, he served in the Army for 22 years, we know there are lazy commanders but these ones in the control center should face UCMJ for gross negligence…. they would if they were civilians and employees had been killed on the job for such awful and horrific disregard for their subordinates. I am now watching this story closely too!

  2. Dakota Meyer and his comrades are all heroes. His actions were observed by God and are not for nothing. He was willing to lay down his life for his fellow man. God bless him and keep him all the days of his earthly life. Heaven awaits — and a reunion with those he loved and lost.

  3. Eye watering recount of 6 hours of selfless couage (most acts as these are momentary events, not 6 hours of sustained disregard for their own life and for the love of brothers in arms) juxtaposed against the eye watering incompetence of supposed leaders in an action not worthy of such brave men. We talk of the greatest generation, rightfully so, but as long as there are men like Dakota Meyer and his companions on that day, we will know the next greatest generation is among us. My eyes and heart pour out in admiration, especially knowing I’m not such a man.

  4. Judy Standridge on

    God Bless abundantly Dakota Meyer!!! But, shame on us for wonderful men we lost to negligence! We need to bring all our men home where they belong.

  5. Pingback: Battle Rattle Blog | Team Ruptured Duck

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