The great state of Kentucky henceforth will no longer be known for its bourbon, horses or basketball. Rather, the Bluegrass State will be known forevermore as the home of an American hero named Dakota Meyer…Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer…Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer.
Now a Marine reservist, Sgt. Meyer received the highest honor bestowed upon a United States soldier for bravery beyond comprehension, against his CO’s orders, at the ripe old age of 21. His multiple acts of bravery during a six-hour firefight with the enemy is something heroes are made of. Saving those of his “brothers” trapped and literally fighting for their lives is a riveting tale made for tomorrow’s history books. Risking his life in retrieving the bodies of his brothers already perished tells you a lot about Dakota Meyer, who exemplified what it means to be a Marine. Semper Fi is more than a Latin phrase for “always faithful.” To Sgt. Meyer, it was the blood coursing through his veins: The Few…The Proud…The Marines.
I was in the Atlanta airport when the medal ceremony from the White House was being conducted. Broadcast live on CNN, amid the noise, confusion, interruption and mass of humanity that one of the world’s busiest airports fosters, I noted countless people standing, sitting and leaning in to gain a view. All of us were straining to hear the distant television suspended from the ceiling. We were young, old, male and female, all races, shapes and sizes, each with our own concerns for getting home. Yet, for the time it took to complete the ceremony, we were all of one accord. I took note that American patriotism was on full display among the impromptu audience gathered at gates A29 and A31. The spirit of freedom was palpable. The irony did not escape me that we were in an airport just a handful of days after the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. Yet, I’ve never felt safer.
I have never witnessed what happened next, especially in an airport where being selfish is regularly on display. President Obama took the light blue scarf holding the medal, stood behind Sgt. Meyer, and began to drape it around his neck. As he hooked the clasp ever so carefully, spontaneous applause erupted from the sitting, standing, leaning patrons throughout Terminal A. I watched people wipe their eyes as I did. The gate area was rife with goose bumps, chicken skin and audible sniffling; I was not immune. This was not the time for a debate on the merits of war, rather recognition of what makes America great. Sgt. Meyer’s day of honor was truly a day for us all. A rekindled sense of patriotism filled the day.
Thank you, Sgt. Meyer. You, sir, represent why I love this country. There is nothing more I can offer than gratitude and appreciation for representing your country with a dignity that is only rivaled by your bravery.