WASHINGTON — A former Marine corporal who repeatedly braved enemy fire in attempting to rescue four comrades in Taliban-infested eastern Afghanistan has been selected to receive the Medal of Honor, the highest award given to members of the armed services, the White House announced Friday.
Dakota Meyer, a former turret gunner and scout sniper from Kentucky, is only the third living veteran of the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts to be chosen for the honor, and he is the first living Marine to be designated for the award since 1973.
Meyer, 23, will be honored at a White House ceremony next month for "courageous actions" while serving in Afghanistan's eastern Konar province on Sept. 8, 2009, according to a statement issued by the White House.
Meyer charged multiple times into a Taliban-held area near the eastern village of Ganjgal after learning that three fellow Marines and a Navy corpsman were missing following an attack by a group of insurgents. Under heavy enemy fire, he located the four Americans — all of them dead — and extracted their bodies with the help of Afghan government troops.
"Meyer embodies all that is good about our nation's Corps of Marines," Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in a statement.
Meyer was with a small team of Marine Corps advisers embedded with an Afghan unit in a remote and mountainous cluster of villages in eastern Afghanistan when they were ambushed by a much larger force of insurgents.
Four American service members, eight Afghan soldiers and an interpreter were killed in the fight, in which the U.S. and Afghan forces were pinned down by the insurgents. The Marines called repeatedly for help, but an Army unit stationed near the site of the battle was slow to respond with supporting artillery fire, resulting in a U.S. Army major receiving a career-ending letter of reprimand.
The Obama administration had previously awarded the medal to two other Afghan war veterans. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who received the award on Nov. 27, and Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, who was pinned at a White House ceremony last month, are the only living service members given the honor for actions in combat after Sept. 11, 2001.
Meyer is the second Marine to receive the medal for heroism in Iraq or Afghanistan after Cpl. Jason Dunham, who was awarded the medal posthumously for throwing his body on a grenade.