We are personally very disappointed in the McClatchy Newspaper’s decision to publish the article, “Marines Promoted Inflated Story for Medal of Honor Winner” alleging that the Marine Corps embellished Corporal Dakota Meyer’s story. We firmly stand behind the Medal of Honor (MOH) process and the conclusion that this Marine rightly deserved the nation’s highest military honor.
The rigorous award investigation process focuses on source information from direct eye-witnesses and other contemporaneously or near-contemporaneously recorded information. Investigators refer to these reliable sources and not to secondary sources such as newspapers, magazine articles, or books. Because of the nature of the events supporting awards for valor, it is normal for minor discrepancies to appear when reviewing the source information and collecting eyewitness statements. The integrity of the military awards system, however, is paramount in the minds of all Marine commanders; accordingly, awards for valor are not endorsed or approved without solid justification in the form of supporting documents and eyewitness statements.
This investigation process was applied to the award recommendation for then Cpl. Meyer’s MOH and its rigor resulted in an entirely appropriate and well-deserved award. The supporting documents for this award included numerous eyewitness statements, graphics, and a command inquiry by the Commander of Marine Corps Central Command and two Army AR-15-6 investigations, which contained many of the eyewitness statements as well as other official documents and radio logs.
Due to the distance and length of time the battle lasted and the fact that the majority of the participants were in a deadly fight for their lives and the lives of their comrades, the eyewitness accounts may vary in certain detail – variations that are expected. These Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers were engaged in a six-hour battle from the time the Coalition forces entered the Ganjgal Valley and were ambushed, until the time when the last of the Coalition forces left the valley. Many of the participants moved back and forth along the three kilometers of terraced valley floor on multiple occasions during the engagement. While a number of the witnesses were in close proximity to Cpl. Meyer and SSgt. Rodriguez-Chavez at various points in the battle, many other witnesses were farther away. The geography of this battle and the location of the participants meant that not every witness had equal and accurate visibility or situational clarity on every activity.
The narrative of Cpl. Meyer’s Heroic Actions was posted on the Headquarters Marine Corps webpage to allow the American public to read Cpl. Meyer’s personal account of the sequence of events and actions on this day. We supported this communication method in large part because of Sgt. Meyer’s personal desire to not retell with each interview, and thereby re-live, what he calls the “worst day of his life.”
The accomplishments described in the MOH citation are valid, supported by two eyewitnesses as required, and confirm the merits of the MOH properly awarded to Cpl. Meyer.