MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Before 9 o’clock in the morning, Marines gathered around two things that have been cornerstones in the U.S. Marine Corps: a bar and a hero.
This beautiful morning was not about Tun Tavern, ‘Chesty’ Puller, or war heroes of old. Instead, the Marines excitedly gathered around a man who is their peer, their age, and for many of them, the embodiment of their values as warriors: Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Dakota Meyer.
Meyer, who recently appeared on "Late Show with David Letterman," threw out multiple ‘first pitches’ at baseball games, and visited the 9/11 memorial, made one final trip before deciding to head back to his home in Kentucky.
“All this media is starting to get to me,” Meyer said. “I told them that I want to go talk to as many Marines as possible. The Marines understand what I have done.”
Meyer was shuffled from location to location Sept. 27, meeting Marines of the 1st Marine Division, shaking hands and posing for photographs. In similar fashion to his other visits, everyone wanted to meet America’s newest Medal of Honor recipient, but for Meyer this day was different.
“If I could meet 15 to 30 Marines a day for the next two or three years, I would,” Meyer said. “That’s what it’s all about for me.”
The Marines had questions for Meyer regarding his military occupational specialty and his conversations with the President, but Meyer had a few things for the Marines as well.
“This medal is as much yours as it is mine,” Meyer said. “I just did what any Marine would have done in my circumstances. I wear it, but the medal belongs to the Marines everywhere because there are millions of stories just like mine.”
As the day wore on, more and more Marines recognized the Corps’ newest hero, but Meyer maintained the day was not about him.
“Sometimes things get hard and I don’t want to go on,” Meyer said. “But I have four friends who don’t have an opportunity to push on with their lives. So every day I push on for them because I owe them that.”
Meyer’s trip took him to a range with the Marines of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, where Meyer showed off his sniper skills and fired a few rounds downrange. He then gave the Marines advice before their next deployment.
“You should always be sharing your knowledge and learning everything you can,” Meyer said. “I never thought that in one day I would kill someone with an M-4, .50-caliber machine gun, an MK19 grenade launcher, a squad automatic weapon, an AK-47, and a rocket-propelled grenade, but it can happen to you like it did to me.”
Before parting each group of Marines, the Medal of Honor recipient had one final thought he wanted to pass to his comrades.
“I did what I did that day because I believed in what I was doing. I believed in ‘Leave no man behind,’” Meyer said. “You have to believe in being a U.S. Marine. Believe in honor, courage and commitment. Believe that you are doing what is right for America.”