Bearing both the Medal of Honor and trauma

Former active duty Marine Corps Corporal and Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer salutes during the playing of the National Anthem, after leading the Cow Days Festival parade down Main Street in his hometown September 17, 2011 in Greensburg, Ky. Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor after saving the lives of 36 American and Afghan soldiers during a firefight in Kunar Province, Afghanistan in 2009.
Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

(CBS News) Starting over after a traumatic event is never an easy task, not even for a young man this nation honors as a hero. Our Cover Story is reported by National Security Correspondent David Martin:

For Dakota Meyer, the Medal of Honor is a full-time job, which keeps him on the road 20 or more days each month.

... As when he appeared at a job fair for veterans in Quantico, Va.:

"When they told me that I would be receiving the Medal of Honor I told them that I didn't want it, because I don't feel like a hero," Meyer said. "But then the president said something to me: 'It's bigger than you.' And I never really thought about that until afterward, and it is bigger than me."

Behind that jaunty air lies some of the toughest lessons any young man ever had to learn.

First, there was the battle in a remote Afghan valley for which he received the medal - a bloody, five-hour firefight which left four Marines and one soldier dead.

Meyer called it the worst day of his life - "A day that has forever changed my life."

Meyer and his fellow Marines drove into a gauntlet of fire from up to 100 insurgents. He went back again and again, trying to reach buddies trapped in the ambush. But he didn't get there in time. And he has been haunted by that ever since.

"I can never forget that I'm a failure, and it's in the face of the nation, not just me."

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 15: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents former active duty Marine Corps Corporal Dakota Meyer with the Medal of Honor during an East Room ceremony September 15, 2011 at the White House in Washington, DC. Corporal Meyer received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a member of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on September 8, 2009 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to a White House press release. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) lex Wong/Getty Images

At last September's Medal of Honor ceremony President Obama described Meyer's actions in heroic terms: "Today we pay tribute to an American who placed himself in the thick of the fight - again and again and again."

In his own book, called "Into the Fire," Meyer describes a brutal battle to the death.

"How many do you think you killed?" Martin asked.

"It doesn't make a difference. I can tell you this, I didn't kill enough," he replied. One he killed with his bare hands.

It is not mentioned in his Medal of Honor citation because there were no witnesses, but as Meyer describes it he was kneeling over the body of Dodd Ali, an Afghan soldier and one of his best friends.

"I just felt something hit me in the back of the head, and it was just slow motion the whole time," Meyer recalled. "And I just remember turning around to look and there was a guy standing above me with a huge beard, you know, and he had an AK-47 and I was, What do I do now?"

Meyer knew one thing: "I was going to make the son of a bitch kill me. I wasn't gonna go get my head chopped off on TV."

He fired from the hip.

"I remember squeezing the trigger on my 203 and it hit the guy right in the chest." Meyer said.

"203 is the grenade launcher," Martin said, and "the grenade didn't go off."


With the unexploded grenade lodged between them the two men fought hand-to-hand.

"I just remember my hand grabbing a rock," he continued. "And finally I got him . . . I couldn't stop, like, I just, it's like all the anger from that day it just went straight into him. I just couldn't do enough to get rid of this guy."

None of it was enough to save his buddies. And when the battle was over Meyer was filled with grief for his lost men, and rage that air and artillery support which had been promised was too long in coming.

The Marines decided they had to get him out of Afghanistan.

Meyer said he was sent home early, being told that he was "wound too tight. . . What they wanted to do for precautionary measures was send me to, you know, just get some help for PTSD rehab center."