WASHINGTON D.C. (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Kaneohe Marine received the nation's highest military honor on Thursday at the White House. Dakota Meyer defied orders, repeatedly charging through enemy fire in Afghanistan, saving 36 lives.
"A lot of people ask, 'Did you think you were going to die?' No, I didn't think I was going to die. I knew I was," said Meyer.
But against all odds, Meyer survived. He was previously stationed in Kaneohe and was deployed to Iraq as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. He received the Medal of Honor for his bravery while part of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8 in September 2009.
"My guys were in there and they were in there fighting. I needed to be in the fight with them," said Meyer.
Meyer was a 21-year-old Marine corporal at the time, and his unit had been ambushed by Taliban fighters. Meyer disobeyed orders and charged into the firestorm trying to reach four trapped Americans.
"They drove straight into a killing zone, Dakota's upper body and head exposed to a blizzard of fire from AK-47s and machine guns, the mortars, and rocket propelled grenades," said president Barack Obama.
Meyer is credited with saving 36 American and Afghan lives during four death-defying trips. He was already wounded when he finally found his fallen comrades on the fifth attempt.
"They were all killed. I found them all laying in the ditch. Their weapons had been stripped. Their radios had been stripped," recalled Meyer.
"Dakota, I know that you've grappled with the grief of that day. You've said that your efforts were somehow a failure because your teammates didn't come home, but as your commander-in-chief, and on behalf of everyone here today, and all Americans, I want you to know that it's quite the opposite," said Obama.
The president praised Meyer and described him as a down-to-earth guy. They had a chance to chat over beers a day before the formal ceremony. The president recalled the difficulty he had notifying Meyer about the honor while the former Marine was at his new civilian construction job.
"He felt he couldn't take the call right then because he said if I don't work, I don't get paid. So we arranged to make sure he got the call during his lunch break," joked Obama.
Meyer is the third living recipient to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he still insists that he is not a hero.
"I don't even like the word hero. I'm the furthest thing from a hero," said Meyer. "You know, I'll accept it on behalf of the Marine Corps and the guys that died."