Mr. McCONNELL. In a ceremony at the White House this afternoon, SGT Dakota Meyer of the U.S. Marine Corps will become the first living Marine recipient of the Medal of Honor, our Nation's highest award for valor, the first recipient in 41 years.
The Medal of Honor is awarded for conspicuous gallantry and bravery at the risk of one's own life, above and beyond the call of duty.
Every American can be proud of Sergeant Meyer, age 23, for his exceptional valor in combat in Afghanistan. I am particularly proud that Sergeant Meyer is a Kentuckian. I am honored that heroes like him come from the Bluegrass State. Sergeant Meyer hails from Columbia, KY, and is a 2006 graduate of Green County High School where he played on the football team. On September 8, 2009, his unit assignment was with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, operating in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. That day he was sent to aid a group of marines, soldiers, and Afghans trapped under heavy enemy fire from three different sides. ``We're surrounded,'' one of them broadcast over the radio. ``They're moving in on us.''
Air support to assist the Marines was unavailable, as the fighting was too fierce for helicopters to land. Then-Corporal Meyer requested permission to enter the zone of fire to come to their aid four times, and four times his request was denied. After four denials he decided to go anyway, in an armored vehicle mounted with a .50-caliber machine gun with one other marine as a driver. Twice they attempted to reach their comrades and twice were forced back by bullets, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars. A bullet hit the vehicle's gun turret, striking Corporal Meyer's elbow with shrapnel. Ignoring his injury, he left the vehicle and charged ahead alone to rescue his fellow fighters. Under intense enemy fire, he reached a trench where helicopter pilots had reported their position.
There he found his three fellow marines and a Navy hospital corpsman all dead from gunshot wounds. Still under fire, Corporal Meyer carried their bodies back to a humvee with the help of Afghan troops and escorted them to a forward-operating base about 1 mile away. He was determined to fulfill the Marines' credo, to never leave a marine behind. Corporal Meyer and the three marines whom he refused to abandon all knew each other well and worked together in the same four-man training team. He considered them close friends.
In addition to the four Americans Corporal Meyer pulled out of the firefight, a U.S. Army soldier and at least eight Afghan troops plus an Afghan interpreter were killed in the attack. They had faced more than 50 enemy insurgents armed with machine guns, assault rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades during a 6-hour firefight.
Now a sergeant, Meyer combines his great heroism with great humility. He said:
This isn't about me. If anything comes out of it for me, it's for those guys.
He left Active-Duty service in June 2010 and currently serves in the Inactive Ready Reserve of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
I know my colleagues join me in saluting SGT Dakota Meyer for his extraordinary display of selfless valor, for which he will be awarded the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony this afternoon. He may not think of himself as a hero, but his country certainly does. His heroism and meritorious service has already been recognized in the many awards, medals, and decorations he has received, including the Purple Heart Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with ``V'' Device for valor, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
His fellow Kentuckians and an entire grateful Nation thank him for his service. Brave men and women like him honor us and our country and make us proud that America boasts the finest Armed Forces in the world.