President Obama awarded 23-year-old Marine Dakota Meyer with the Medal of Honor on Thursday, praising the Kentucky native for his service, valor, and for being "one of the most down to earth guys that you will ever meet."
Meyer, now a sergeant in the Marine Corps Inactive Ready Reserve, is the third living person, and the first living Marine, to be recognized with the Medal of Honor for actions taken in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The sergeant has been deployed in both countries, but it was his action in Afghanistan on September 9, 2009 that earned him the Medal of Honor. Just 21 at the time, Meyer made five trips into an ambush on U.S. troops, exposing his body to gunfire repeatedly while serving as a turret gunner, and ultimately helping to save the lives of 13 American and 23 Afghan soldiers.
"Because of your honor, 36 men are alive today," said Mr. Obama at the presentation of the Medal. "Because of your courage, four fallen American heroes came home."
During the ceremony, Mr. Obama recounted the incident for which Meyer was being recognized, and promised him that, despite his sorrow surrounding the events of that day, "you did your duty above and beyond."
"I know that you've grappled with the grief of that day, that you've said that your efforts were somehow a failure because your teammates didn't come home," Mr. Obama said. "But as your commander in chief, and on behalf of everyone here today and all Americans, I want you to know it's quite the opposite. You did your duty, above and beyond, and you kept the faith with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps that you love."
"It's been said that where there is a brave man in the thickest of the fight, there is the post of honor," Mr. Obama said. "Today we pay tribute to an American who placed himself in the thick of the fight again and again and again."
He also teased the 23-year-old for deferring a call from the president until his lunch break.
"I do appreciate, Dakota, you taking my call," he joked.