With the dust starting to settle, it’s time to set the record straight about Dakota Meyer, who will become the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in decades.
As someone who has covered the fallout of the Sept. 8, 2009, ambush in Gangjal, Afghanistan, since days after it occurred, I’ve noticed a variety of inaccuracies work their way into stories about the incident, Meyer’s service and the Medal of Honor process. Many of them cite my story last week that confirmed the award decision had been made, so it seems fair for to correct the record.
Let’s look at a few inaccuracies:
Meyer will be the first living Marine in 41 years to receive the Medal of Honor.
That’s a falsehood, and since it was reported by the Associated Press, it has been appeared in dozens, if not hundreds, of news accounts.
I reported last week that Meyer would be the first living Marine recipient of the award since now-retired Sgt. Maj. Allan Kellogg received the medal for actions for 41 years ago in Vietnam. I assume that’s where the 41-year figure comes from, but there’s nuance there that can’t be left out.
It’s true that Kellogg was honored for valor 41 years ago on March 11, 1970, but he received the medal from President Nixon at the White House on Oct 15, 1973. That means it has been about 38 years since the last living recipient received the Medal of Honor.
Meyer acted as a sniper in the battle.
Meyer was an infantry rifleman in the Corps, and trained as scout sniper, too. During the Battle of Ganjgal, however, he was serving as a member of an embedded training team, and never functioned as a sniper. There were snipers providing overwatch during the battle, but they were with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
On a related note, some media accounts said Meyer was in Afghanistan at the time with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. As Marine Corps Times previously reported, Meyer was with 3/3 before his deployment in 2009, but volunteered for the training team assignment instead of deploying to Iraq for a second time.
Meyer currently lives in Austin, Texas.
I’ll take the heat for this one. In Marine Corps Times’ initial story posted last week, I reported that Meyer lived in Austin. Meyer shared that detail with me in April, but subsequently moved back to his hometown of Greensburg, Ky., a few months later. He couldn’t be reached for comment last week, but I have subsequently verified and corrected our initial story. The first report led to confusion for some Texas news outlets.
Meyer was a sergeant in the battle.
Some media outlets have reported that Meyer was a sergeant in the battle, while others say he was a corporal.
The truth is, he was a corporal at the time, and left active-duty service as one in June 2010. He has subsequently been promoted to sergeant while in the Individual Ready Reserve, an organization in which Marines can be called back to active-duty service, but rarely are. He wore sergeant’s stripes at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball last year.