MEDAL OF HONOR: Into the Kill Zone
SHAKO: Dakota from Kentucky
President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Marine Corps Sgt. Dakota Meyer during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, 2011. Meyer, of Columbia, Kentucky, is the third living serviceman — and first Marine — to receive the nation’s highest award for military heroism during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Meyer, then a corporal, was part of a training team embedded with Afghan troops in Kunar Province on Sept. 9, 2009. As U.S. and Afghan troops moved into Ganjal Village on foot for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders Meyer and other Marines were part of the security element posted at a rally point away from the village. But the advance element was ambushed by more than 50 insurgents in well fortified positions along a planned kilometer-long “kill zone.”
U.S. soldiers, Marines and Afghan soldiers and police were pinned down for hours with casualties mounting. Air support was delayed for more than two hours. Meyer requested — and was denied — permission to mount a rescue mission into the kill zone four times. After his fourth request was rebuffed, Meyer and then-Staff Sgt. now Gunnery Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez grabbed a Humvee and headed in to the kill zone with the sergeant behind the wheel and Meyer up top manning a machine gun turret.
The pair braved mortar, machine gun and small arms fire as well as rocket-propelled grenades and drove into harm’s way not once or twice but four times to evacuate the wounded, recover the dead and give aid. Meyer killed at least eight fighters and was wounded in the arm. Rodriguez-Chavez was later awarded the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for bravery.
Meyer led a fifth rush into the kill zone looking for four missing team members. Accompanied by Marine 1st Lt. (now Capt.) Ademola Fabayo and Army Capt. William Swenson, Meyer braved enemy fire on foot to continue the search. However, he found all of his team — three fellow Marines and a Navy corpsman (medic) — dead. He helped recover their bodies under fire.
According to the Marine Corps:
Over the course of a six-hour fire-fight, without regard for his own personal safety, Meyer entered the kill zone five separate times to evacuate the wounded, provide essential aid and, ultimately, saved the lives of 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers in addition to 23 Afghan soldiers. Meyer personally killed at least eight Taliban insurgents, while providing cover for his team to fight their way out and escape certain death.
To read Meyer’s Medal of Honor citation, click here.
To learn about Meyer’s team members who were killed click here.
To read an earlier 4GWAR article about the heroism that earned Fabayo and Rodriguez-Chavez the Navy Cross click here. 4GWAR readers may remember the sergeant’s wife (justifiably) took exception to our headline that said Two Marines Win Navy Cross. It’s not a contest she noted. They were fighting for their lives and the lives of their comrades.
The whole story of that awful day has not come out yet, according to the Washington Post. For more about Army Capt. Swenson, who reportedly is also up for the Medal of Honor — and bitterly criticized the lack of air support, click here.
For more photos of the White House ceremony, click here.
To find out what those others medals on Meyer’s uniform are for, click here.
Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Counter Insurgency, National Security and Defense, SHAKO, Traditions. Tags: Afghanistan, Counter Insurgency, counter terrorism, Defense, Marine Corps, Medal of Honor, soft power.