On the day President Barack Obama presented Dakota Meyer with the Medal of Honor, the 23-year-old Marine veteran stood silently, medals weighing on his chest, his baby-face a mixture of pride and sadness.
For Meyer, the first living Marine to get the recognition in nearly four decades, the pomp during the ceremony at the White House was an uncomfortable moment in the limelight for a reluctant hero who looked far more at ease applauding his fellow comrades in arms than standing center stage.
So he stood there, hands folded behind his back, staring stonily ahead as the president listed exactly why the spotlight-shy Kentucky native deserved the nation’s highest military award.
On Sept. 8, 2009, in a valley in mountainous northeastern Afghanistan, Meyer, then a 21-year-old corporal, repeatedly charged through enemy fire to rescue other Marines and U.S. and Afghan soldiers who had been ambushed by insurgents.
Meyer, firing a heavy machine gun from the turret of a gun truck, killed at least eight insurgents, picked up wounded and dead men and provided cover that allowed his team to fight its way out of certain death, according to the Marine Corps.