We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France

29 September 2011, 19:57
Filed under: Marines, Medal of Honor | Tags: ,

I guess it’s odd in a sense that humility is such an admirable trait. I’ve always liked my heroes humble. The “aww, shucks, I just got lucky” farm boy who hits the homerun or the real warrior who can’t understand why he’s recognized for doing something “any Marine would have done”.

There’s a long tradition of soldiers, sailors and Marines who are awarded medals and wonder why, or in the instance of the Iwo Jima flag-raisers, who get the adulation as heroes, but don’t understand it. They were just doing their job, and, as Dakota Meyer noted in his interview on 60 Minutes, despite having done more than they can reasonably have been asked to do, they have a lingering feeling that they didn’t do enough. Many of them don’t want the attention and don’t want to be treated any differently than anyone else.

I pointed out in an update that Sergeant Dakota Meyer wanted to join the New York Fire Department. He’d served with men who’d been firemen there and his grandfather was a fireman. He missed the deadline to apply by a day, but the city attempted to re-open acceptance of applications. A judge ruled that reopening wouldn’t allow all possible applicants an equal chance, since not everyone has internet access, so he wouldn’t reopen the process to everyone. He did, however, see Meyer as special, so he offered to allow only Meyer to apply. His lawyer, Keith Sullivan, let everyone know where our hero stood on the issue.

“Dakota refuses to compromise his values,” Sullivan said Tuesday. “He said he would like to thank the city of New York and the people who have shown him so much support, but he couldn’t in good conscience take a one-person exception. He will apply for the exam when it’s given again in four years.”

Thanks to our friends over at Bring the Heat for pointing us to Neptunus Lex to read up on it.

SGT Dakota Meyer, MOH

On “60 Minutes” last night, Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer said “You either get them out alive or you die trying. If you didn’t die trying, you didn’t try hard enough.”

It’s heart-crushing to know that this young man, who braved heavy enemy fire five times, saving 36 of his comrades, sounds as if he feels, at his core, that he failed. One thing that comes out when you talk to veterans is the guilt they feel for surviving when othes did not. It seems that those who are marked by receiving the Medal of Honor feel that burden even more so. I think of Audie Murphy and how he struggled with the burden, or John Basilone, who eagerly went back to “his boys” in combat in the Pacific. We can look to the flag-raisers from Iwo Jima and read in Flags of Our Fathersjust how difficult it is to be in the blazing focus of publicity.

SGT Meyer’s actions on 8 September 2009 were simply astounding. He feels not only that any other Marine would have done just as he did, but also that Army Captain William Swenson has been unjustly denied any recognition for his actions that day. Two other Marines, Captain Ademola Fabayo and Staff Sergeant Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions, but the paperwork for any recognition for Captain Swenson was “lost”. Swenson quite rightly had criticized the officers at nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce for refusing to provide either air or fire support during the six-hour firefight. His criticism was confirmed when a military investigation cited those officers for negligence, effectively ending their careers.

Meyer had volunteered for Afghanistan when 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines was deploying to Iraq. The Scout-Sniper became a part of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, helping to train Afghani troops. First Lt. Michael Johnson, Gunnery Sgt. Edwin “Wayne” Johnson, Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick and Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton led a combined force into Ganjgal, expecting to meet with village elders and instead being ambushed. When neither air support nor fire support was provided to the surrounded Marines, Meyer looked over to Staff Sgt. Rodriguez-Chavez and said, “We’re going in.” In five trips in and out of the kill zone, Meyer, the Staff Sergeant, Swenson, Ademola and an Afghan interpreter named Fazel, were able to save 36 Americans and Afghanis. They could not, however, reach the Marines in time to save them.

There are 85 living members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and I’ve read that Meyer has already had advice from Salvatore Giunta. Robert Maxwell told me that the Society has annual meetings and my hope is that SGT Meyer will attend, listen and share his experience with the others who have borne this burden for many years.

“If I get it, it’s good because it’s good for the Marine Corps, it’s good for the guys and it’s good for the parents. But I’m not in it for me,” he said. “These guys gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and their families have to live with it. If they give it to me, it’s not for me. It’s for those guys and their families.”

UPDATE: Meyer has applied to become a New York City fireman. He had missed the deadline for applications to join the FDNY by a number of hours, but the city has reversed course and plans to accept his application.

Weekend Wanderings, 24 July 2011

This past week marked a momentous occasion for this blog. It exceeded last year’s hits – 1650. However, since most of last year’s hits were all due to one post that was linked on Ace of Spades, it was basically just luck (and being friendly to the right people!) So, this year’s numbers (slightly over 10 hits a day most of the time) feel much more earned.

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