WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2011 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta inducted Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Dakota L. Meyer into Pentagon Hall of Heroes today, holding him up as an example of courage, selfless service and the Corps‘ motto, „Always Faithful.“
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd in the Pentagon Auditorium, Panetta joined Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos in honoring Meyer as the 3,475th member of the prestigious Pentagon Hall of Heroes. Meyer became the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for operations in Afghanistan, where he repeatedly returned in the face of heavy enemy fire to save his Marine, soldier and Afghan comrades and retrieve the bodies of those killed.
President Barack Obama presented Meyer the highest military honor yesterday during a White House ceremony.
Today, Panetta recognized „the incredible valor and the uncommon fearlessness“ Meyer demonstrated, disregarding his own safety to charge the enemy kill zone „again and again and again“ to search for his comrades and friends.
His actions saved 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers and 23 Afghan soldiers and police, Mabus noted.
Meyer „truly went above the call of duty,“ Panetta said.
„By your actions, you have earned a place in history,“ the secretary told Meyer. „And the devotion you showed to your fellow brothers in arms will never be forgotten.“
Thanks to Meyer and those who served with him, „families are still whole,“ Mabus said. „Children and grandchildren are going to be born. Marriages and graduations will get to be celebrated. And at its most fundamental, life will continue.“
Panetta called Meyer an example of a generation of young Americans who have come to their country’s service since 9/11. His story, the secretary said, serves as an example and inspiration for all military members, those who will serve in the future and to all Americans.
Amos said Meyer’s actions reaffirm that „despite the uncertain security environment in which we live or the headlines which speak of ongoing crises around the world, our nation still yet produces young men and women who embody the timeless values of service over self.“
„It reminds us that we still have in our midst ordinary Americans who do extraordinary things ï¿½ patriots who volunteer for the profession of arms,“ and willingly putting themselves in harm’s way when called to do so to defend their country, he said.
„There are no words, Sergeant Meyer, that can adequately convey what you and your fellow Marines do every day,“ Mabus said. „And as we honor Sergeant Meyer today, we also remember more than 20,000 Marines still deployed in Afghanistan, still standing the watch so the rest of us can sleep in our homes in peace.“
Amos said he took time before yesterday’s Medal of Honor ceremony to emphasize the magnitude of it to Marines around the world.
„As prepared as we all thought we were, I doubt that a single one of us who sat in that room and listened to our president tell the story of what happened that fateful day in the Konar province of Afghanistan anticipated the overwhelming sense of national pride and profound gratitude for a young Marine,“ he said.
Amos, noting that he was honoring a living Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient for the first time in his four-decade career, underscored that „there is nothing routine about what happened yesterday and what is taking place today“ at the Pentagon.
„This is indeed a momentous occasion — and one that many of us will never likely see again in our lifetimes,“ he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
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