During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with Marine Cpl. Dakota L. Meyer and the Battle of Ganjgal, on Sept. 8, 2009, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
Dakota L. Meyer’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“Cpl. Meyer maintained security at a patrol rally point while other members of his team moved on foot with two platoons of Afghan National Army and Border Police into the village of Ganjgal for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Moving into the village, the patrol was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters firing rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns from houses and fortified positions on the slopes above.
“Hearing over the radio that four U.S. team members were cut off, Cpl. Meyer seized the initiative. With a fellow Marine driving, Corporal Meyer took the exposed gunner’s position in a gun-truck as they drove down the steeply terraced terrain in a daring attempt to disrupt the enemy attack and locate the trapped U.S. team.
“Disregarding intense enemy fire now concentrated on their lone vehicle, Cpl. Meyer killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point-blank range, as he and his driver made three solo trips into the ambush area.
“During the first two trips, he and his driver evacuated two dozen Afghan soldiers, many of whom were wounded. When one machine gun became inoperable, he directed a return to the rally point to switch to another gun-truck for a third trip into the ambush area where his accurate fire directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush.
“Despite a shrapnel wound to his arm, Cpl. Meyer made two more trips into the ambush area in a third gun-truck accompanied by four other Afghan vehicles to recover more wounded Afghan soldiers and search for the missing U.S. team members. Still under heavy enemy fire, he dismounted the vehicle on the fifth trip and moved on foot to locate and recover the bodies of his team members.
“Cpl. Meyer’s daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the six-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy’s attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on. His unwavering courage and steadfast devotion to his U.S. and Afghan comrades in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
The four members of Meyer’s squad whose bodies were recovered during the battle were First Lt. Michael Johnson, Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson Jr., and Hospital Corpsman Third Class James R. Layton.
Meyer was the first living Marine from the War on Terror to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He received the medal from President Barack Obama on Sept. 15, 2011.
In his book Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, co-authored by Bing West, Meyer made a case for Army Capt. William D. Swenson to be awarded the Medal of Honor for risking his life to save fellow troops and recover bodies during the Battle of Ganjgal. Swenson received his medal on Oct. 15, 2013.
In recent years, Meyer has been working with Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that addresses the high rates of unemployment and underemployment among veterans.
Meyer has also become an advocate for veterans to seek treatment for PTSD. “The biggest thing we do as veterans to each other [is] we feel like (when we struggle with PTSD) it’s not normal because we don’t talk about it,” he said in February 2019 at a Heroes Among Us event at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia. “You’ve got to talk about it.”
Keep up with Freedoms Foundation news and events here.