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The mission behind the Medal

Bing West’s Wall Street Journal column on the Medal of Honor awarded to then Marine Corporal (now Sergeant) Dakota Meyer provides context and detail lacking in most of the news accounts occasioned by yesterday’s White House ceremony. Sergeant Meyer was awarded the Medal for his day-long heroics during a September 2009 ambush in Afghanistan rescuing a group “abandoned by their chain of command,” according to West. West spoke with Sergeant Meyer within a few days of the incident, as one can tell from this excerpt of the column:

21-year-old Cpl. Meyer listened to radio calls for artillery fire that were refused by officers at higher headquarters due to concern for endangering villagers. Cpl. Meyer hopped into the gun turret of a Humvee and persuaded a fellow adviser, Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, to drive him straight into the battle.

When the Humvee lurched into the wash, Cpl. Meyer saw the bodies of roughly a dozen Afghan soldiers strewn across the terrain, some dead and others crying. With bullets striking his truck, he leaped out, stuffed five wounded Afghans inside, and then hopped back up behind the machine gun and hammered away as the pulverized vehicle crawled out of the wash.

Leaving the wounded in the rear, Cpl. Meyer and Sgt. Rodriguez-Chavez swapped Humvees. This time the enemy was waiting in a dry streambed. Rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun bullets followed Cpl. Meyer as he repeatedly left his armored turret to load the truck with wounded Afghan soldiers. At one point, he shot a tall man with a black beard. When another leapt forward under the barrel of his machine gun, Cpl. Meyer grabbed his M4 rifle and shot him in the head.

“You’ll have to kill me,” he shouted in the rage of battle (he had expected to be killed, he told me a few days later at his outpost in Afghanistan), “because that’s the only way you’ll stop me.”

Please read the whole thing, as well as the Journal article by Julian Barnes, both of which can be accessed in full with a little effort.

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