LOUISVILLE, Ky. >> President Barack Obama is standing by his award of the Medal of Honor to a former Kaneohe Marine in the Afghanistan war despite a published report Thursday charging exaggerations of the battle.
Obama presented the award to Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer three months ago, calling him the “best of a generation” that joined the military after 9/11. He described the day in 2009 when Meyer braved enemy fire in eastern Afghanistan to save U.S. and Afghan comrades.
McClatchy Newspapers reported that its review of documents turned up numerous “untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated” assertions about the firefight. The report by a McClatchy correspondent who was embedded with the military and witnessed the Sept. 8, 2009, battle, based the story on analysis of dozens of military documents, including sworn statements by Meyer and others involved.
The story also said Meyer displayed heroism that day and deserves the award.
Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the president “remains very proud” of Meyer and his “remarkable acts of bravery.”
Meyer, a native of Green County, Ky., could not be reached for comment Thursday. He said on his Twitter page that he has received an outpouring of support since the report was published. He posted a picture of the front page of a newspaper that prominently displayed the story.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for the support people on Twitter and other Americans are showing me. So Thank You all,” Meyer tweeted.
A friend of Meyer’s who attended the Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House on Sept. 15 said Meyer was frustrated by the report because he has used the medal to draw attention to fallen and wounded Marines and soldiers.
“He’s been very clear in almost every interview, he didn’t ask for this. But he now has learned that it’s his responsibility,” said Chris Schmidt, of Columbia, Ky.
Meyer’s grandfather, Dwight Meyer, said he hadn’t seen the story and didn’t know what it was about.
“Dakota just doesn’t talk about (the battle), because he’s had so much on his mind about it, because it’s affected him tremendously,” Dwight Meyer said.
Meyer has been humble about receiving the honor, calling it “the worst day of his life” because his comrades died.
The Marines said in a statement they were very disappointed McClatchy published the story. The award investigation process used first-person, eye-witness accounts and supporting documents and that Meyer “rightly deserved the nation’s highest military honor,” the Marines said.
The Marines acknowledged that the process was not flawless.
“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,” it said.
The Marines also acknowledged that the public narrative of Meyer’s actions on the battlefield, as it appeared on the Marine Corps website, was his personal account.
The military said Meyer saved 13 American and 23 Afghan soldiers’ lives, and he “personally killed at least eight Taliban insurgents, while providing cover for his team to fight their way out.”
The McClatchy report said that could not have happened because 12 Americans and the reporter were ambushed that day.
Four were killed, and a fifth would later die of injuries. The report also said there were no statements that credit Meyer with killing eight Taliban.
The Humvee driver with Meyer during the ambush, Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, reported seeing Meyer kill one insurgent, according to the McClatchy story.
McClatchy’s Washington bureau chief James Asher noted the Marines were not challenging the story.
“History isn’t being well served by this, nor do I think Dakota Meyer is either,” Asher said. “For reasons that are mystifying to me … the Marine Corps wanted for some reason to make a better story.”