Dakota Meyer

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Dakota Meyer
Dakota L. Meyer.JPG
Meyer in November 2011
Birth name Dakota Louis Meyer
Born (1988-06-26) June 26, 1988 (age 30)
Columbia, Kentucky, U.S.
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Marine Corps
Years of service 2006–2010
Rank USMC-E5.svg Sergeant
Unit Embedded Training Team 2-8
3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines

Iraq War
War in Afghanistan

Awards Medal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Bristol Palin
(m. 2016; div. 2018)
Children 3 (1 stepchild)
Other work Into the Fire (2012)

Dakota Louis Meyer (born June 26, 1988)[1] is a United States Marine. A veteran of the War in Afghanistan, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal on 8 September 2009, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Meyer is the second-youngest living Medal of Honor recipient, the third living recipient for either the Iraq War or the War in Afghanistan[2] and the first living U.S. Marine in 38 years to be so honored.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Meyer was born and raised in Columbia, Kentucky, the son of Felicia Gilliam and Michael Meyer.[4][5] In 2006, after graduation from Green County High School, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at a recruiting station in Louisville, Kentucky and completed basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.[4]

Military service[edit]

Meyer deployed to Fallujah, Iraq in 2007 as a scout sniper with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. He gained national attention for his actions in Afghanistan during his second deployment in Kunar Province with Embedded Training Team 2-8.[6][7]

On 8 September 2009, near the village of Ganjgal, Meyer learned that three Marines and a Navy corpsman, who were members of Meyer's squad and his friends, were missing after being ambushed by a group of insurgents. Under enemy fire, Meyer entered an area known to be inhabited by insurgents and eventually found the four missing servicemen dead and stripped of their weapons, body armor and radios. There he saw a Taliban fighter trying to take the bodies. The fighter tackled Meyer, and after a brief scuffle, Meyer grabbed a baseball-sized rock and beat the fighter to death.[8] With the help of Afghan soldiers, he moved the bodies to a safer area where they could be extracted.[9] During his search, Meyer "personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded and provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe."

Meyer stands at attention after receiving the Medal of Honor from U.S. President Barack Obama during the Medal of Honor presentation ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Washington, D.C., 15 September 2011.

On 6 November 2010, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, told reporters during a visit to Camp Pendleton, California that a living U.S. Marine had been nominated for the Medal of Honor. Two days later, Marine Corps Times, an independent newspaper covering Marine Corps operations, reported that the unnamed person was Meyer, citing anonymous sources. CNN confirmed the story independently two days later.[10]

On 9 June 2011, the Marine Corps announced that two other Marines on Meyer's team in Ganjgal would receive the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for valor a Marine can receive. Capt. Ademola D. Fabayo and Staff Sgt. Juan J. Rodriguez-Chavez were recognized for their roles in retrieving the bodies of the fallen Marines and corpsman. Before Meyer began searching for the missing servicemen on foot, Rodriguez-Chavez drove a gun truck into the kill zone with Fabayo manning the truck's machine gun.[11]

When President Barack Obama's staff called Meyer to set up a time for the president to inform him that his case for the Medal of Honor had been approved, they were told Meyer was working at his construction job and were asked to call again during his lunch break.[12]

Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony on 15 September 2011.[13] When a White House staffer contacted Meyer to arrange the ceremony, Meyer asked if he could have a beer with the president.[14] He received an invitation to the White House for the afternoon before the ceremony. Meyer also requested that when he was honored, simultaneous commemorative services should be held at other associated locations to honor the memory of his colleagues who died or were mortally wounded during the ambush and his rescue attempts.[15]

Four U.S. servicemen died in the ambush:

  • 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25, of Virginia Beach, VA
  • Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30, of Roswell, GA
  • Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Wayne Johnson Jr., 31, of Columbus, GA
  • Hospital Corpsman Third Class James R. Layton, 22, of Riverbank, CA.

A fifth man, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth W. Westbrook, 41, of Shiprock, NM, later died from his wounds.[16]


A year after the Battle of Ganjgal, after drinking at a friend's house, Meyer attempted to commit suicide using a Glock pistol kept in his truck's glove compartment. The gun was not loaded. Meyer later sought help for post-traumatic stress disorder.[17]

In September 2011, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear bestowed upon Meyer the honorary title of Kentucky Colonel during an event in his hometown of Greensburg in which Meyer served as grand marshal.[18]

Meyer filed a lawsuit against his former employer, defense contractor BAE Systems, alleging the company and his supervisor punished him for his opposition to a weapons sale to Pakistan.[19] The lawsuit claimed that BAE Systems ridiculed Meyer's Medal of Honor, called him mentally unstable and suggested he had a drinking problem, thereby costing him a job.[20] On 15 December 2011, BAE announced that the parties resolved their dispute out of court.[21]

On 14 December 2011, McClatchy news outlets published an article which questioned the actual number of lives Meyer saved. The article stated that "crucial parts that the Marine Corps publicized were untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated," but that Meyer "by all accounts deserved his nomination."[22]

Meyer and Bing West wrote the book Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, about the Battle of Ganjgal. It was published on 25 September 2012.[23] In the book, Meyer makes a case for Army Captain William D. Swenson to be awarded the Medal of Honor;[17] Swenson had criticized Army officers at the nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce for not providing fire support, the resulting political fallout not conducive to awarding him the medal. Those same officers were later cited following a military investigation for "negligent" leadership leading "directly to the loss of life" on the battlefield.[24][dead link] Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor on 15 October 2013.[25]

In 2013, Meyer participated in the fourth season of Maximum Warrior,[26] a TV competition among U.S.-military operators, featuring 10 military-inspired challenges. Meyer, eliminated on the eighth episode, "Night Hostage Rescue", airing 26 November 2013, finished in fourth place. As of 2015, Meyer sits on the advisory board for VETPAW,[27] an organization of U.S. military veterans dedicated to protecting African wildlife.

Meyer is a proponent of legalizing the medical use of cannabis, which he says can help veterans suffering from PTSD while also reducing usage of opioid drugs.[28] In March 2018, Meyer co-authored an op-ed calling for medical cannabis to be legalized in Kentucky.[29]

Personal life[edit]

On March 13, 2015, Meyer became engaged to Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.[30] On 18 May 2015, Sarah and Bristol Palin announced that the wedding, originally scheduled for May 23, 2015, had been called off.[31] On June 25, 2015, Bristol Palin announced that she was pregnant for a second time.[32] She gave birth to daughter, Sailor Grace, on December 23, 2015.[33] On 6 January 2016, People reported that Meyer is the biological father of the child, and that Meyer had filed legal documents asking for joint legal and physical custody of the newborn as well as child support from Palin.[34] In March 2016, an interim joint legal and physical custody agreement was reached between Palin and Meyer.[35] On 23 May 2016, Palin and Meyer were married.[36] In December 2016, Palin announced that she was expecting her third child, the second with Meyer.[37] On May 8, 2017, she gave birth to a daughter they named Atlee Bay.[38] On January 29, 2018, Meyer filed for divorce from Palin, citing a "conflict of personalities".[39] On August 1, 2018, Palin confirmed that her divorce from Meyer was finalized.[40]

Meyer is the creator and force behind the podcast Owning It with Dakota Meyer.[41]


  • Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War[42]

Honors and awards[edit]

Military awards[edit]

A light blue ribbon with five white five pointed stars
Bronze star
USMC Rifle Expert badge.png USMC Pistol Expert badge.png
1st row
Medal of Honor
Purple Heart Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ Combat V
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
2nd row
Combat Action Ribbon
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ 2 bronze campaign stars
3rd row
Iraq Campaign Medal w/ campaign star
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
NATO Service Medal (ISAF)
Badges Expert marksmanship badge for rifle (3rd award) Expert marksmanship badge for pistol (2nd award)
1 service stripe (not here pictured)

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

"The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


For service as set forth in the following:

A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009. Corporal Meyer maintained security at a patrol rally point while other members of his team moved on foot with two platoons of Afghan National Army and Border Police into the village of Ganjgal for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Moving into the village, the patrol was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters firing rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns from houses and fortified positions on the slopes above. Hearing over the radio that four U.S. team members were cut off, Corporal Meyer seized the initiative. With a fellow Marine driving, Corporal Meyer took the exposed gunner's position in a gun-truck as they drove down the steeply terraced terrain in a daring attempt to disrupt the enemy attack and locate the trapped U.S. team. Disregarding intense enemy fire now concentrated on their lone vehicle, Corporal Meyer killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point blank range, as he and his driver made three solo trips into the ambush area. During the first two trips, he and his driver evacuated two dozen Afghan soldiers, many of whom were wounded. When one machine gun became inoperable, he directed a return to the rally point to switch to another gun-truck for a third trip into the ambush area where his accurate fire directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush. Despite a shrapnel wound to his arm, Corporal Meyer made two more trips into the ambush area in a third gun-truck accompanied by four other Afghan vehicles to recover more wounded Afghan soldiers and search for the missing U.S. team members. Still under heavy enemy fire, he dismounted the vehicle on the fifth trip and moved on foot to locate and recover the bodies of his team members. Meyer's daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the 6-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy's attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on. His unwavering courage and steadfast devotion to his U.S. and Afghan comrades in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dakota L. Meyer". Military Times. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  2. ^ Brad Knickebocker (15 September 2011). "Dakota Meyer, a Marine who disregarded orders, is awarded Medal of Honor". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 3 June 2013. Meyer is the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Jennifer Epstein (14 September 2011). "Dakota Meyer, Medal of Honor recipient, meets with President Obama". Politico. Retrieved 3 June 2013. Meyer is the third living recipient and first Marine to receive the medal for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. ^ CNN Wire Staff (16 September 2011). "Marinene receives Medal of Honor at White House". CNN. Retrieved 3 June 2013. "I know that you've grappled with the grief of that day, that you have said that your efforts were somehow a failure because your teammates didn't come home," Obama told Dakota Meyer, who became the first living Marine to be recognized with the nation's highest military honor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq.
  4. ^ a b "Sgt. Dakota L. Meyer, USMC: Profile". United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 25 September 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011. He was born and raised in Columbia, Kentucky, attended local public schools, and graduated from Green County High School.
  5. ^ "Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyerquote=Dakota Meyer has his Medal of Honor adjusted his father, Michael..." San Antonio Express-News. Texas. December 12, 2011. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015.
    "Reluctant hero and the weight of a medal". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Hawaii. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. But his mother, Felicia Gilliam....
  6. ^ Lamothe, Dan (23 November 2010). "MoH nominee says he does not feel like a hero". Marine Corps Times. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  7. ^ Estep, Bill, "Adair Native To Receive Medal Of Honor For 'Worst Day' Of His Life", Lexington Herald-Leader, 13 September 2011, p. 1.
  8. ^ Lamothe, Dan (8 November 2010). "Heroism in ambush may yield top valor awards". Marine Corps Times. Archived from the original on 8 December 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  9. ^ Cole, William, "Reluctant Hero And The Weight Of A Medal", Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 28 July 2011.
  10. ^ Lamothe, Dan (10 November 2010). "Ambush survivor up for Medal of Honor". Marine Corps Times. Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
    Lamothe, Dan (15 November 2010). "Behind the Cover: An exclusive interview with Dakota Meyer, Medal of Honor nominee". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  11. ^ Lamothe, Dan (9 June 2011). "Marines earn Navy Cross for Ganjgal heroism". Marine Corps Times. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  12. ^ Memoli, Michael A. (15 September 2011). "Obama awards Medal of Honor to Kentucky Marine". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  13. ^ "Marine to receive Medal of Honor next month". CNN. 12 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
    "Obama to Present Marine With Medal of Honor in September, White House Announces". Fox News. 12 August 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Sgt. Dakota Meyer Grabs a Beer With President Obama - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  15. ^ Dylan Lovan (14 September 2011). "Ex-Marine honored for saving 36 in Afghanistan". Associated Press.
  16. ^ "Defying Orders, Hero Marine Saved Other Troops". National Public Radio. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  17. ^ a b Dan Lamothe (8 August 2012). "Dakota Meyer attempted suicide, book reveals". Military Times. Archived from the original on 12 August 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  18. ^ James V. Carroll (1 December 2011). "Dakota Meyer, the newest Medal of Honor recipient, joins a select company of Americans". The American Legion Magazine. The American Legion. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
    Greg Kocher (16 December 2011). "Crow turns out for Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer". Lexington Herald-Leader. Archived from the original on 28 December 2011. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  19. ^ Charley Keyes (29 November 2011). "Medal of Honor hero sues contractor". CNN.
  20. ^ "Medal of Honor recipient sues defense contractor". AP Press.
  21. ^ "Dakota Meyer drops case against BAE". militarytimes.com. 15 December 2011. Archived from the original on 17 December 2011.
  22. ^ "Marines promoted inflated story for Medal of Honor recipient". McClatchy DC.
    "Marines promoted inflated story for Medal of Honor winner". Washington Post.
    "Report: Medal of Honor exaggeration? – USATODAY.com". USATODAY.COM.
    "Medal of Honor recipient's story questioned". cbsnews.com. 15 December 2011.
  23. ^ Meyer, Dakota; West, Bing (25 September 2012). Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-679-64544-3.
  24. ^ "Afghan ambush heroics go unrecognized". Army Times. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  25. ^ "Former Army Captain To Receive Medal Of Honor". Huffington Post. 16 September 2013. Archived from the original on 20 September 2013.
  26. ^ "Dakota Meyer". IMDb.
  27. ^ "About Us". VETPAW. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  28. ^ "Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer calls for legalization of medical marijuana in Kentucky". WDRB. 2 March 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  29. ^ Grimes, Alison Lundergan; Meyer, Dakota (7 March 2018). "It's time to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  30. ^ "Bristol Palin and Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer engaged". CNN. 14 March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  31. ^ Ly, Laura (May 19, 2015). "Bristol Palin's wedding is called off". CNN. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
    Palin, Bristol (May 26, 2015). "The Wedding That Didn't Happen". Patheos.com. Archived from the original on May 30, 2015. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  32. ^ Palin, Bristol. "Big News". Patheos. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  33. ^ "Bristol Palin Gives Birth to a Baby Girl, Shares Sweet Photos". E!. 24 December 2016.
  34. ^ Rayne, Naya (5 January 2016). "Sarah Palin Slams Bristol's Ex-Fiancé After He Asks for Joint Custody of Baby Sailor: He Is Trying to 'Save Face'".
  35. ^ Bacardi, Francesca (10 March 2016). "Bristol Palin and Dakota Meyer Reach Custody Agreement Over Baby Sailor".
  36. ^ "Bristol Palin marries Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer". Fox News. 8 June 2016.
  37. ^ Heller, Corinne (9 December 2016). "Bristol Palin Is Pregnant With Her Third Child". E! Online. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  38. ^ "Bristol Palin And Husband Dakota Meyer Welcome Baby Girl". Huffington Post. May 8, 2017.
    "Bristol Palin and Husband Dakota Meyer Welcome Daughter — See the Cute Pic!". People. May 8, 2017.
  39. ^ Mandell, Andrea (13 February 2018). "Bristol Palin's husband, Dakota Meyer, files for divorce, cites 'conflict of personalities'". USA Today. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  40. ^ Radar Staff (August 2, 2018). "Bristol Palin's Ex Confirms Divorce Finalized: Couple Sharing 50/50 Custody Of Kids". Radar Online. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  41. ^ Cite error: The named reference :0 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  42. ^ Meyer, Dakota (June 18, 2013). Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War. Random House Trade Paperback.
  43. ^ "Citation". Medal of Honor Sgt Dakota Meyer. United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on November 24, 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.

External links[edit]