b. 28/06/1988 Columbia, Kentucky.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 08/09/2009 Kunar, Afghanistan.
Meyer was born and raised in Columbia, Kentucky, the son of Felicia Carole Ferree “Killy” Gilliam and Michael Allen Meyer. In 2006, after graduation from Green County High School, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at a recruiting station in Louisville, Kentucky and completed boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Meyer deployed to Fallujah, Iraq in 2007 as a scout sniper with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. He gained national attention for his actions in Afghanistan during his second deployment in Kunar Province with Embedded Training Team 2–8.
On September 8, 2009, near the village of Ganjgal, Meyer learned that three Marines and a Navy Corpsman, who were members of Meyer’s squad and his friends, were missing after being ambushed by a group of insurgents. Under enemy fire, Meyer entered an area known to be inhabited by insurgents and eventually found the four missing servicemen dead and stripped of their weapons, body armor and radios. There he saw a Taliban fighter trying to take the bodies. The fighter tackled Meyer, and after a brief scuffle, Meyer grabbed a baseball-sized rock and beat the fighter to death. With the help of Afghan soldiers, he moved the bodies to a safer area where they could be extracted. During his search, Meyer “personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded and provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe.”
On November 6, 2010, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos, told reporters during a visit to Camp Pendleton, California that a living United States Marine had been nominated for the Medal of Honor. Two days later, Marine Corps Times, an independent newspaper covering Marine Corps operations, reported that the unnamed person was Meyer, citing anonymous sources. CNN confirmed the story independently two days later.
On June 9, 2011, the Marine Corps announced that two other Marines on Meyer’s team in Ganjgal would receive the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for valor a Marine can receive. Capt. Ademola D. Fabayo and Staff Sgt. Juan J. Rodriguez-Chavez were recognized for their roles in retrieving the bodies of the fallen Marines and Corpsman. Before Meyer began searching for the missing servicemen on foot, Rodriguez-Chavez drove a gun truck into the kill zone with Fabayo manning the truck’s machine gun.
When President Barack Obama’s staff called Meyer to set up a time for the president to inform him that his case for the Medal of Honor had been approved, they were told Meyer was working at his construction job and were asked to call again during his lunch break.
Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony on September 15, 2011. When a White House staffer contacted Meyer to arrange the ceremony, Meyer asked if he could have a beer with the president, and President Obama agreed to the request. He received an invitation to the White House for the afternoon before the ceremony. Meyer also requested that when he was honored, simultaneous commemorative services should be held at other associated locations to honor the memory of his colleagues who died or were mortally wounded during the ambush and his rescue attempts.
A year after the Battle of Ganjgal, after drinking at a friend’s house, Meyer attempted to commit suicide using a Glock pistol kept in his truck’s glove compartment. The gun was not loaded. Meyer later sought help for post-traumatic stress disorder. Meyer and Bing West wrote the book Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, about the Battle of Ganjgal. It was published on September 25, 2012. In the book, Meyer makes a case for Army Captain William D. Swenson to be awarded the Medal of Honor; Swenson had criticized Army officers at the nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce for not providing fire support, leading to accusations that the paperwork for his Medal of Honor recommendation had been “lost” as punishment. Those same officers were later cited following a military investigation for “negligent” leadership leading “directly to the loss of life” on the battlefield. Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 15, 2013, over four years after first being recommended for the award.
In 2013, Meyer participated in the fourth season of Maximum Warrior, a TV competition among U.S.-military operators, featuring ten military-inspired challenges. Meyer, eliminated on the eighth episode, “Night Hostage Rescue”, airing November 26, 2013, finished in fourth place. As of 2015, Meyer sits on the advisory board for VETPAW, an organization of U.S. military veterans dedicated to protecting African wildlife.
Meyer has been married twice, both ending in divorce. His second marriage was to Bristol Palin, daughter of the former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. They had two children together prior to their divorce in 2019.
Corporal Meyer maintained security at a patrol rally point while other members of his team moved on foot with two platoons of Afghan National Army and Border Police into the village of Ganjgal for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Moving into the village, the patrol was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters firing rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns from houses and fortified positions on the slopes above. Hearing over the radio that four U.S. team members were cut off, Corporal Meyer seized the initiative. With a fellow Marine driving, Corporal Meyer took the exposed gunner’s position in a gun-truck as they drove down the steeply terraced terrain in a daring attempt to disrupt the enemy attack and locate the trapped U.S. team. Disregarding intense enemy fire now concentrated on their lone vehicle, Corporal Meyer killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point blank range, as he and his driver made three solo trips into the ambush area. During the first two trips, he and his driver evacuated two dozen Afghan soldiers, many of whom were wounded. When one machine gun became inoperable, he directed a return to the rally point to switch to another gun-truck for a third trip into the ambush area where his accurate fire directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush. Despite a shrapnel wound to his arm, Corporal Meyer made two more trips into the ambush area in a third gun-truck accompanied by four other Afghan vehicles to recover more wounded Afghan soldiers and search for the missing U.S. team members. Still under heavy enemy fire, he dismounted the vehicle on the fifth trip and moved on foot to locate and recover the bodies of his team members. Corporal Meyer’s daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the 6-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy’s attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on. His unwavering courage and steadfast devotion to his U.S. and Afghan comrades in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: WITH RECIPIENT.