Thursday, December 15, 2011

Marines promoted inflated story for Medal of Honor Dakota Meyer


Corps, journalist at odds over Meyer report
By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Dec 15, 2011 20:55:00 EST
Outraged Marine Corps officials scrambled Thursday to defend against allegations that the service inflated accounts of the battlefield actions that led to Sgt. Dakota Meyer receiving the Medal of Honor.

The outcry was prompted by a McClatchy Newspapers investigative report, published Wednesday, that said portions of the Corps’ descriptions of the Sept. 8, 2009, battle in Ganjgal, Afghanistan, were “untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated.” McClatchy raised questions about details in Meyer’s award citation and in a narrative account of the battle in Ganjgal, a remote mountain village in Kunar province, published on the Corps’ official website.

The narrative was posted on the website Aug. 12, the same day the White House announced that Meyer would receive the award. It was produced separately from the military awards process, and credits Meyer, 23, with saving 13 U.S. service members and 23 Afghan forces during the fierce firefight while making five trips into a valley under heavy enemy fire.
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Before you get as angry as I was when I first started reading this, McClatchy went on to say that the spin on Meyer's action was not necessary since what he did was worthy of the Medal of Honor. The reason why the Marines would do such a thing may be tied to the controversy over the failures at the other end causing heroic actions from Meyer as well as Capt. Will Swenson that day.
Was this all about changing the focus of reporters from what happened to focusing on Dakota Meyer? The families of the Marines lost that day would like to know why but above that, they want the heroes honored and the guilty to pay.

Marines promoted inflated story for Medal of Honor winner



WASHINGTON -- With Dakota Meyer standing at attention in his dress uniform, sweat glistening on his forehead under the television lights, President Barack Obama extolled the former Marine corporal for the "extraordinary actions" that had earned him the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor.

Obama told the audience in the White House East Room on Sept. 15 that Meyer had driven into the heart of a savage ambush in eastern Afghanistan against orders. He'd killed insurgents at near-point-blank range, twice leapt from his gun turret to rescue two dozen Afghan soldiers and saved the lives of 13 U.S. service members as he fought to recover the bodies of four comrades, the president said.

But there'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 Newspapers 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."

But an exhaustive assessment by a McClatchy correspondent who was embedded with the unit and survived the ambush found that the Marines' official accounts of Meyer's deeds - retold in a book, countless news reports and on U.S. military websites - were embellished. They're marred by errors and inconsistencies, ascribe actions to Meyer that are unverified or didn't happen and create precise, almost novelistic detail out of the jumbled and contradictory recollections of the Marines, soldiers and pilots engaged in battle.
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One report on this credited Capt. Will Swenson.
Capt. Will Swenson recommended for Medal of Honor Army Capt. Will Swenson has been recommended by the top U.S. general in Afghanistan for the Medal of Honor after widespread speculation about why his heroism had gone unrecognized, according to a published report.

Swenson braved enemy fire on Sept. 8, 2009, with Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, who will receive the nation’s top valor award Thursday at the White House. Meyer, now a sergeant in the Individual Ready Reserve, told Marine Corps Times recently that it was “ridiculous” Swenson already hadn’t received some form of valor award.

“I’ll put it this way,” the outspoken Meyer said in an interview. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive today.”

Medal of Honor for Army Capt. Will Swenson will make two for same battle

Here is another story on this that was not covered as much as it should have been.

Approval of Swenson’s award had apparently stalled, but it received new scrutiny last month by Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The second look came after rampant speculation as to why Swenson had not received an award for valor.

Relatives of Ganjgal fallen want answers about accountability

Susan Price, the mother of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, who died during the firefight, told CBS she was unhappy with official reprimands that followed a 2010 military inquiry into U.S. planning and decisions during the battle.

Charlene Westbrook, widow of Army Sgt. Kenneth Westbrook, who died from his wounds after the firefight, said mistakes made during the battle were caused by negligence. She also criticized the military’s follow-up.

“These letters of reprimand are just clearly slaps on the wrist,” Westbrook said. “These officers need to be court-martialed.”

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