Saturday, September 17, 2011

In Honor of Daniel Meyer

So I'm taking in the Saturday morning road ritual - read the papers, have a Starbucks, wait for the bookstore across the street to open - and I come across the latest Medal of Honor recipient ceremony.

The President is placing that blue ribbon around the neck of a Marine - one of the few ever to earn the nation's highest military honor and live.

The cynical part of me, the trained historian, the PR flak, wants to pick at this story like the not so healed wound that obviously lives on this young man's soul. Yeah, the phone call part seems too staged. His selection somewhat defies the Corps' strictness for following orders.

But you know what?

As I sit here reading these stories, I don't care.

I don't care if he is some sort of central casting. And the more I look, the more I get the feeling he is not.

I want to believe in Dakota Meyer precisely for the reason he doesn't want me to. Because he is America. The one that works, and worries that taking a phone call might the boss on his ass.  The one that mourns for his brothers.  The one that might be a little Hollywood in "earning this" but still just goes out, punches the clock, moves the ball down the field.

The one that just can't see what all the fuss is about. That holds his pride and fears stoically inside. That just wants to do his job, sir.

And most of all, that knows sometimes you have to disobey orders. If you are right, you are rewarded. That believes in the right thing.

This above all is the part of Dakota Meyer's story that gives me the most hope.

He was not crushed by the system for disobeying, doing what had to be done and succeeding. Oh yes, he could easily be dead - read the news accounts - or could have caused that collateral damage his commanders correctly feared.

But he didn't.

That is also America.

It takes risks.  It is messy.  It fails sometimes.

More times than not, it rewards. Risk taking and reward seeking is America. Death or defeat is just around the corner, and it is crushing, devastating.

Fortune favors the bold is as old as Western civilization, and perhaps not coincidence that it is the motto of the 3rd Marine Division. That is Meyer's previous employer.

According the story coming from the White House, he was worried about his current one when this all started:

Obama said Meyer had initially refused to take his call about the award because he was working, saying, "If I don't work, I don't get paid."

Again, I don't care if that's stagecraft. It sounds like a serious young man who does not want the notoriety, that wants to just forget the worst day of his life, that, well, as he said:

I'd rather have all my guys here now than receive the medal," Meyer, now a construction worker back home in Kentucky, told CNN.

I was about to write, "I am unashamed to say that Dakota Meyer is my hero".  I got halfway through the sentence and realized that was wrong to say. I am guessing that is exactly what he doesn't want, in fact, does not deserve. 

He has given his pound of flesh to his country in the one physical wound he suffered in the fire-fight and the continuing one that I am betting rests in his heart and soul - for his lost brothers. He doesn't need the additional burden of being some kind of national talisman, or living up to some image we project upon him.

So instead, let me say I honor Dakota Meyer's service by two things. First, remembering him in my prayers and repeating his story so that maybe some of you that follow here can take some inspiration from him.

The second is more important - and for Dakota Meyer.

I'm going to work today. And I'm going to do the best possible job. And, thinking of the college football career he originally wanted instead of the Marines, I'm going to leave it all on the field.

Because Dakota Meyer, that horrible day, was a man, a Marine and an American.

Fortes fortuna juvate

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