TAMPA — Dakota Meyer didn't want all the attention to be on him.
The Marine who was recognized Thursday with the Medal of Honor for his exceptional bravery in an ambush two years ago in Afghanistan requested that ceremonies also be held to honor the men whose bodies he carried out of the Ganjgal Valley.
One of those ceremonies happened here.
Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Michael Kenefick, the son of Susan Price of Riverview, was killed Sept. 8, 2009. He had worked at MacDill Air Force Base at Central Command. He was 30.
Meyer was like his little brother.
The small ceremony started in the heat of noon at the corner of Bayshore and Bay to Bay boulevards.
People held umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun. A young woman sang the national anthem and choked on the words toward the end. There was rifle fire. Taps was played. A chaplain said a prayer. Various leaders of local veterans groups talked about what they do. A white Range Rover drove by and honked in apparent support.
A man read an account of what happened that day. How Meyer, 21 at the time, made four trips under intense fire to save 13 Marines and Army soldiers and another 23 Afghan troops, and then made a fifth. To find his missing friends. Nobody left behind. Kenefick, he later told military officials, he found in a trench, his face locked in what looked like a scream.
Thursday, at the event by the bay, Price talked about the ceremonies honoring the other men who were killed. She said her family members were having a similar gathering at Kenefick's grave, near Buffalo, N.Y., where he's buried next to his grandfather, who also was a Marine.
She had a message for Dakota Meyer.
"Dakota," she said, "we love you."
She spoke to her son.
"To our beloved Aaron," she said, "we give thanks to God as we celebrate your legacy. …
"… You gave everything you had this day for what you believed in. …
"… And our family loves you and misses you ever so much.
"Love and honor," she said, and she said this loudly, almost defiantly, "Aaron's mother, Susan Price."
An artist pulled the black cover off a portrait of her son. She looked at the painting and touched the side of the frame. People clapped. She wiped a tear from her cheek from under the shades that matched her black dress.
After the ceremony, as most everybody left, Price said her humble son wouldn't want her talking about him like this. But she did. He was a paperboy. He was a quarterback. He was, more than anything else, more than he was even a brother or uncle or son, a Marine. It wasn't, she said, something for him to do. It wasn't a job. It was a career. He had known as a junior in high school what he wanted to be, well before Sept. 11, 2001, and since his death, she said, she's heard from so many young Marines to whom her son was a teacher and mentor.
She said the last time she talked to him was 18 hours before he died. He told her he loved her. He asked her to pray.
Michael Kruse can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8751. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelkruse.