LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer is
staying grounded despite a whirlwind tour of national TV
appearances, trips to New York and Los Angeles and one-on-one time
with the leader of the free world.
The Kentucky-born Marine says the memory of fallen comrades and
troops still fighting in Afghanistan keeps him going.
"It's overwhelming. I'm a Marine sniper, I'm not a celebrity,
so it really changes everything," Meyer said Thursday in downtown
Louisville during a convention for Medal of Honor winners.
"I'm still confused with the whole deal, why every one's
calling me a hero because I feel like I was just doing my job and I
see guys doing that every single day over there," he said.
Since receiving the military's highest honor at the White House
two weeks ago, the 23-year-old Green County native has appeared on
the "Late Show" with David Letterman, thrown out the first pitch
at a New York Yankees game and visited Ground Zero in Manhattan.
"I don't do it for myself, because if it was for me I would go
home," Meyer said. "But it's bigger than me."
Meyer was joined Thursday by Army Sgt. Leroy Petry of New
Mexico, who had his right hand severed by a grenade blast in 2008
in Afghanistan. Petry now wears a robotic prosthetic.
Petry said the bright lights of fame that come with the award
can be jarring, but he too wants to call attention to ongoing war
"Every time we go somewhere and speak or are seen, it's
representing everyone, it's not about ourselves," Petry said.
"It's easy to look at (it that way), when most of us joined the
service as a selfless act."
They are two of only three living recipients who have been
awarded the medal for fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Meyer charged through heavy gunfire on five death-defying trips
to rescue fellow soldiers and Marines ambushed by Taliban
insurgents in Kunar Province in September 2009. The military says
Meyer saved 36 lives: 13 Marines and Army soldiers along with 23
Afghan soldiers. Meyer killed at least eight insurgents, but lost
four teammates who were killed in the barrage.
Petry received the honor for throwing back a live grenade that
had been tossed at him and fellow soldiers in the Paktya province
of Afghanistan in May 2008. The grenade detonated as he threw it,
taking his right hand at the wrist and further injuring him with
Meyer talked about his experience meeting President Obama, and
sharing a beer with him on a White House patio the night before the
formal ceremony. Meyer says he drank a beer brewed at the White
"I asked for a Bud Light, but I guess because of the budget
cuts they had to brew their own beer," Meyer joked.
He said he asked Obama for advice, and what the president would
do if he was a 23-year-old in Meyer's shoes.
"He said don't make any rash decisions, take it as it comes,
don't try to force it," Meyer said. "Just sitting down and
talking to him, he's a great guy."
Meyer has left active service and is back living in his hometown
of Greensburg in central Kentucky. He has started a foundation that
helps the children of service men and women go to college.
Meyer and Petry, along with Army Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, are
the only three living Medal of Honor recipients who earned it for
combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Giunta, an Iowa native, was honored
last year for saving a soldier when his platoon came under attack
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society organized the
Louisville convention. Organizers say 54 of the 85 living Medal of
Honor winners are attending the convention, which ends Saturday.
Congressional Medal of Honor Society: http://www.cmohs.org/
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(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)