By BJ Bjornson
This McClatchy story about the Marines inflating the story around Congressional Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer is just depressing on too many levels.
First off, of course, is the fact that they felt the need to inflate the story of Meyer�s already heroic deeds in the first place.
[T]here�s a problem with this account. Crucial parts that the Marine Corps publicized and Obama described are untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated, according to dozens of military documents McClatchy examined.
Sworn statements by Meyer and others who participated in the battle indicate that he didn�t save the lives of 13 U.S. service members, leave his vehicle to scoop up 24 Afghans on his first two rescue runs or lead the final push to retrieve the four dead Americans. Moreover, it�s unclear from the documents whether Meyer disobeyed orders when he entered the Ganjgal Valley on Sept. 8, 2009.
The statements also offer no proof that the 23-year-old Kentucky native "personally killed at least eight Taliban insurgents," as the account on the Marine Corps website says. The driver of Meyer�s vehicle attested to seeing �a single enemy go down."
What's most striking is that all this probably was unnecessary. Meyer, the 296th Marine to earn the medal, by all accounts deserved his nomination. At least seven witnesses attested to him performing heroic deeds �in the face of almost certain death.�
Braving withering fire, he repeatedly returned to the ambush site with Army Capt. William Swenson and others to retrieve Afghan casualties and the dead Americans. He suffered a shrapnel wound in one arm and was sent home after the battle with combat-related stress. Meyer�s commander, Lt. Col. Kevin Williams, commended him for acts of �conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his life � above and beyond the call of duty.�
What follows is a tale of inter-service rivalry and misplaced pride creating pressure for awarding more and better medals leading to a rushed citation, but I found this part of the story even worse in all respects.
In response to McClatchy's findings, the Marine Corps said it stood by the official citation that was produced by the formal vetting process. Asked to explain the individual discrepancies and embellishments, the Marines drew a distinction between the citation and the account of Meyer's deeds that the Marines constructed to help tell his story to the nation. They described that account as "Meyer's narrative of the sequence of events," which Marine officials said they didn't vet.
Doesn�t it just warm your heart to know that winning your nation�s highest award for bravery doesn�t render you immune from the brass blaming you in an attempt to cover their own asses?
The sad part about all of this is that despite the many heroic actions Meyer did perform that day, the Marine Corps decision to exaggerate and become inventive on the official account is going to put an asterisk beside his Medal of Honor win, one that honesty could have avoided. No one deserves that.