Hours before receiving the nation's highest award for military valor, a humble Marine from Kentucky wonders, why he's being honored for "the worst day of my life." 23-year old Sergeant Dakota Meyer told CBS Radio News, "it's going to be a hard time" when President Obama presents the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony.
Wounded and facing heavy Taliban fire in a remote Afghanistan battle zone in September of 2009, Meyer was credited with saving the lives of 13 Americans and 23 Afghan troops. The military account describes how Meyer killed at least eight attackers despite suffering a shrapnel wound as he fired from a gun turret.
He was also determined to recover the bodies of four other Americans who had been killed in the ambush.
Meyer and two other soldiers dodged heavy gun and grenade fire to retrieve the bodies. Meyer steadfastly rejects the title hero.
"If I was a hero I would have brought them out alive that day. That's a hero. I was just doing my job," he told CBS News.
But Susan Rice, the mother of one of the dead Americans insisted, "The guilt that he has does not belong to him." In an interview, Rice, mother of Staff Sergeant Aaron Kenefick of Roswell, Georgia said her son had "a bond" with Meyer. She said, "They lived and worked together. It doesn't get any closer than that."
Asked about a message to future Marines, Meyer said, "You got to do what's right." His voice choking with emotion, he added, "Leave no marine behind."
Today's East Room ceremony won't the first meeting between Dakota Meyer and President Barack Obama. A White House spokesman says when the president's staff called Meyer to consult about the ceremony; he asked if he could have a beer with Mr. Obama. The Marine and the Commander in Chief met for brews yesterday on a patio near the Oval office.