Friday, July 29, 2011

Marine to be Awarded the Medal of Honor

It has been announced that former Sgt Dakota Meyer, USMC of Austin, Texas and Greensburg, Kentucky will be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Ganjgal, Afghanistan in September 2009.  Then-Cpl Meyer was part of III MEF Embedded Training Team 2-8 during a movement to a meeting with tribal elders in an area known to be active with Taliban.  He was part of a 13-man US detachment of Marines along with soldiers from 10th Mountain Division, as well as some soldiers of the Afghan army.

The US element was ambushed and taken under heavy fire by some 50 Taliban fighters.  Four members of the Marine team were immediately cut off and the rest of the convoy lost contact with them.  Meyer manned a machine gun in a humvee driven by SSgt Juan Rodriguez-Chavez while they drove into the kill zone three times to cover the withdrawal of US and Afghan forces.  During this action, Meyer was wounded in the arm by shrapnel, but despite his wound, Meyer charged back into the kill zone on foot to establish contact with the separated element.  Unfortunately, all had been killed.  Helicopter support was called for during the battle and to later retrieve the bodies, but was refused due to the intense fire.  Meyer then helped carry them from the kill zone under fire.

At the same time, then-1st Lt Ademola Fabayo was also trying to establish contact with the lost element on foot, engaging the enemy at close range with his M-4, and carried one of the wounded for several hundred yards.  He later returned in a vehicle with Army CPT Will Swenson in an attempt to fight through.

Meyer, Fabayo, Rodriguez, and Swenson then entered the kill zone again in vehicles to finish retrieving the bodies, using the vehicles to shield them while still under fire

Both Fabayo and Rodriguez were later awarded the Navy Cross for their actions.

The KIA that Meyer retrieved were:  GySgt Edwin Johnson, 1st Lt Michael Johnson, GySgt Aaron Kenefick, and HM3 James Layton.  Also killed in the action were an Afghan interpreter and at least eight Afghan soldiers.  Army SFC Kenneth Westbrook, rescued by Fabayo and Swenson, later died of complications from wounds sustained in the ambush.

The action became controversial as a result of an investigation into refusals of repeated pleas for artillery support from higher authority at FOB Joyce, along with its failure to report the action further up the chain of command.  At least two Army officers received letters of reprimand as a result of the investigation.

Meyer becomes the first living Marine recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Viet Nam War, and one of only three living recipients of the war in Afghanistan, along with Army SPC Salvatore Giunta and SFC Leroy Petry.

Update:  Meyer has now received the medal, and there is further details of the action, but his comments reveal more about him, including "I didn't think I was going to die.  I knew I was going to die."  But there is another too, referring to the men he was unable to save:
The men Meyer wants the world to remember are Lt. Michael Johnson, Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, Gunnery Sgt Edwin Johnson and Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton. 
"Those guys gave their lives so you have to remind (the public) everyday.  You know, that's the least you can do,” said Meyer, who killed eight Taliban fighters, some at close range. 
Meyer is cited for returning to the kill zone of the ambush, against orders, five times, and is mainly responsible for the rescue of 36 US and Afghan soldiers.

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