In recognition of his military actions in Afghanistan on behalf of his fellow servicemen and his country that resulted in his receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor, U.S. Army Sgt. Dakota Meyer was presented with a custom knife made by Gene Baskett, a custom AR-15 rifle, and honorary membership in the Knifemakers’ Guild.
During a special ceremony this past December in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Baskett, formerly of Elizabethtown and now of Eastview, Kentucky, presented Sgt. Meyer with a Baskett handmade knife, a custom fighter with a black Moly-Coated CPM-154 stainless blade and a black linen Micarta® handle. The knife is engraved “MOH, Sgt. Dakota Meyer, USMC” on the mark side and “8 September 2009, Kunar Province Afghanistan” on the flip side. The engraving is by Patrick Clark of Clark Jewelers, also of Elizabethtown. Richardson Gunsmithing did the Moly Coating.
In all, Baskett said he got to spend about three hours with Sgt. Meyer the day of the presentations. “He really loved the knife,” Baskett observed. “He was really appreciative and seemed very humbled by it all.”
J.J. Akins and Steve Sprowls of Elizabethtown’s Sporter Express gun shop presented Sgt. Meyer with the custom-engraved rifle. The gun is engraved “Rifle presented by the citizens of Hardin County, KY. Sergeant Dakota Meyer, USMC. 8 September 2009. Kunar Province Afghanistan. Congressional Medal of Honor,” and was donated by Sporter Express.
A member of the Guild’s board of directors, Baskett also presented Sgt. Meyer with a custom Guild honorary membership badge that includes the worlds “Medal of Honor Recipient” and the Marine Corps emblem.
ACTS OF HEROISM
Sgt. Meyer was born and raised in Columbia, Kentucky. He entered the Marine Corps after high school in 2006. On Sept. 8, 2009, Sgt. Meyer, then a corporal, was credited with numerous acts of heroism and saving the lives of several Marines in a battle near the village of Ganjgal in Afghanistan (see sidebar, page ???). As a result, Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House on Sept. 15, 2011.
Sgt. Meyer spoke to a small crowd and the media during the ceremony in Elizabethtown, saying he does not consider himself a hero and that the Medal of Honor and what it represents is much bigger than him. His actions on “the worst day of my life” may have saved several fellow Marines, though he said he could not save four of his close friends in his unit. He wears a bracelet bearing their names.
The Americans who died in the ambush were: 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25, Virginia Beach, Virginia; Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30, Roswell, Georgia; Hospital Corpsman Third Class James R. Layton, 22, Riverbank, California; and Gunnery Sergeant Edwin Wayne Johnson Jr., 31, Columbus, Georgia. A fifth soldier, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth W. Westbrook, 41, Shiprock, New Mexico, later died from his wounds.
Sgt. Meyer received the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House on Sept. 15, 2011. When a White House staffer contacted him to arrange the ceremony, Sgt. Meyer famously asked to “have a beer with the President.” Sgt. Meyer received an invitation to the White House the afternoon before the ceremony (see sidebar, page ???). He also requested that when he was honored, simultaneous services should be held at other applicable locations to honor the memory of his fellow service members who died or were mortally wounded during the ambush and his rescue attempts.
Sgt. Meyer is the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, and the first living Marine in 38 years to be so honored. In addition to the Medal of Honor, he also received the Purple Heart, Navy Commendation Medal w/Combat V, the Navy Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon during his years of service from 2006-2010.
MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE
Sgt. Meyer uses his fame to raise money to provide college scholarships to the childen of those soldiers who did not survive the war. His goal is to raise $1 million for his “Million Dollar Challenge” (see sidebar, page ???). During the presentation ceremony, Sporter Express presented a check for $750 toward that goal.—BY MIKE CARTER
For more information on the Million Dollar Challenge, visit www.dakotameyer.com. For more on Gene Baskett knives, contact Gene Baskett, Dept. BL12, 427 Sutzer Ck. Rd., Eastview, KY 42732 270-862-5019 www.baskettknives.com.
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Keeping Up With Dakota Meyer
It is not often a living U.S. Marine receives the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Sgt. Dakota Meyer is the first one to do so in 38 years. Neither is he one to rest on his laurels.
For instance, he has partnered with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation (MCSF) to raise money so the children of Marines can attend college. Sgt. Meyer said he realizes the importance of education and believes in the MCSF motto, “Honoring Marines by Educating Their Children.” The Dakota Meyer Scholarship Initiative was established and Sgt. Meyer committed to personally raising a million dollars to fund the effort. In fact, during the MCSF’s 50th anniversary celebration this past spring, it was announced that he had successfully reached his goal of raising a million dollars. The Challenge to America to match the million dollars Sgt. Meyer raised is ongoing. To learn more about it and to make a donation visit www.dakotameyer.com
He indicated he was honored President Obama accepted his invitation to have a beer the afternoon before the Medal of Honor ceremony. (As a side note, Sgt. Meyer said the White House brews its own beer, a honey ale, which he said both he and the president enjoyed.) He added he appreciated the opportunity to speak with and ask advice from the president. The president emphasized the importance of education, a priority Sgt. Meyer shares. In fact, Sgt. Meyer said he hopes to continue his education when his travel schedule slows down.
Meanwhile, he spends much of his time on the road, traveling all over America to share the story of his fallen brothers. He also advocates for veterans and has recently partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Toyota on the Hiring Our Heroes campaign, which provides jobs fairs for veterans nationwide, as well as training veterans to successfully make the transition from military to civilian employment. At press time, Sgt. Meyer’s book Into the Fire was slated to be published this September.
Above and Beyond The Call
According to Dakota Meyer’s citation for the Medal of Honor, he was recognized, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the repeated risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a member of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009.
“When the forward element of his combat team began to be hit by intense fire from roughly 50 Taliban insurgents dug in and concealed on the slopes above Ganjgal village, [then] Corporal Meyer mounted a gun-truck, enlisted a fellow Marine to drive, and raced to attack the ambushers and aid the trapped Marines and Afghan soldiers. During a six-hour firefight, Corporal Meyer single-handedly turned the tide of the battle, saved 36 Marines and soldiers and recovered the bodies of his fallen brothers.
“Four separate times he fought the kilometer up into the heart of a deadly U-shaped ambush. During the fight he killed at least eight Taliban, personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded, and provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe.
“On his first foray his lone vehicle drew machine gun, mortar, rocket grenade and small arms fire while he rescued five wounded soldiers. His second attack disrupted the enemy’s ambush and he evacuated four more wounded Marines. Switching to another gun-truck because his was too damaged, they again sped in for a third time, and as turret gunner he killed several Taliban attackers at point blank range and suppressed enemy fire so 24 Marines and soldiers could break out.
“Despite being wounded, he made a fourth attack with three others to search for missing team members. Nearly surrounded and under heavy fire, he dismounted the vehicle and searched house-to-house to recover the bodies of his fallen team members. By his extraordinary heroism, presence of mind amidst chaos and death, and unselfish devotion to his comrades in the face of great danger, Corporal Meyer reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
TOP PHOTO AND SECOND PHOTO FROM TOP
Congressional Medal-of-Honor recipient Sgt. Dakota L. Meyer recently was presented with a Gene Baskett handmade knife. The custom fighter has a black Moly-Coated CPM-154 stainless blade and a black linen Micarta® handle. The knife is engraved “MOH, Sgt. Dakota Meyer, USMC” on the mark side. The engraving is by Patrick Clark. Richardson Gunsmithing did the Moly Coat. (photo of Sgt. Meyer courtesy of the United States Marine Corps; knife photo by Mike Carter)