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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reflecting on a Year

Today is my birthday; I'm 24 years-old.

In many ways, I feel much older than my 24 years.  It seems I've experienced a lot of things that most people my age have not.  And although I'm not a big fan of reflecting on the past, I can't help but think about how much has changed in my life in the past year.

I think for most people, the time between 23 and 24 is pretty uneventful.  Most are trying to settle into adult life at my age.  But, the last 12 months of my life have been anything but uneventful.

As I'm boarding a plane today, to travel to Virginia to speak to another group about my experience as a Marine and the details surrounding my Medal of Honor, I'm thinking about how I spent my last birthday.  If I remember correctly, June 26, 2011 was much hotter than it is today, but maybe that's because I was spending the day working outside on a construction site, pouring concrete and tying steel.  That was a long day!

I would have never imagined then, that my life would be turned upside down in the way it has been since receiving the Medal of Honor, but these types of things cannot be expected, or even planned for.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the opportunities receiving the Medal of Honor have brought me.  I've visited interesting places and met wonderful people over the past year.  However, no matter if I'm standing on the 50 yard line of the New York Giants football field, sharing a beer with President Obama, or sharing my story with a group of strangers, the reality of the price that was paid for me to enjoy these opportunities is always on my mind.

I will never know why I was pulled from my team in Afghanistan on September 8, 2009.  I'll never know why my guys died and why I survived.  But I do know that I was given the opportunity to continue living for myself and for each of them.

Celebrating another year of life is a bit of struggle for me when I know my guys will never have the chance.  But, as I've said before, you can see situations in life as obstacles or as opportunities.  I choose to see the opportunity and to make the most of it. 

Tonight, when I speak to the group in Virginia, I'm going to tell the story of the my brothers, of their bravery and of their sacrifice.  And I'm going to do my best to seize the opportunity I've been given to live another year on this earth.

Here's to 24!


  1. You are keeping them alive everyday through you brother. Keep inspiring others towards greatness for you are our best example of a role model our generation has. Try to enjoy your bday. May God be with you always! Semper Fi my brother, my hero, and fastly becoming my mentor. God Bless you Dakota.

  2. When I read this blog I have to keep reminding myself that you are only 24 years old. I cannot imagine the pain that you have suffered through, but I am so very happy that God chose such a man of valor, as yourself, to live to tell the story.

    Happy Birthday, Dakota Meyer! Keep fighting the good fight and never doubt God's reasoning for life's events. There is bigger plan that we often don't ever get a chance to see come to fruition, but we can leave this world knowing that we did our best to be part of it.

    Blessings to you!

    Cindy B.

  3. Happy Birthday, Dakota, thank you for everything you've done and thank you for starting this blog! I recently started my own site in support of the book I'm working on (When The Shooting Stops at which will cover Veterans and their post-war lives as well as those who have lost loved ones in our most recent wars.

    The book, and the blog, will all be written with (I hope) the sensibilities of a Veteran, as I am one myself.

    I wish you nothing but health, success and a long life! I'll be keeping an eye on your site and will undoubtedly post links to some of your posts on mine.

    Would say Semper Fi, but I was Navy. :-)


  4. I'm sure that that is a heavy load on your heart when you think about the ones that were lost but if it wasn't for you, no one would know their story at all. We only know it through your story. You were saved that day because God chose you. Maybe to put a face on the soldiers we read about everyday, maybe to inspire the world with your well earned wisdom... Maybe you haven't even made your greatest contribution yet. I do know this, though, To me... You are a Hero. ~Happy Birthday Dakota~ I hope this is your greatest year yet.

  5. Just know that for all of us that new 1st Leut. Mike Johnson, we thank you for not only being a great marine, but a great man. That day forever changed many lives, but we will continue to persevere and honor our friend's name by our actions!

    Thank you for all you do!

  6. happy birthday Sgt. I hope its many more to come and those will be better years and you have inspiring moments to those who serve our military especially those who soon will become marines.

  7. Happiest Birthday, Sergeant. God bless you and Semper Fi! Susan Dejnozka RN, wife of 31-year retired USAF Colonel

    You've inspired me greatly and I hope to learn more from you, and spread your word, Sir.

    Susan Dejnzoka

  8. Happy belated Birthday! Hope your day was blessed with smiles, laughter, and birthday cake!

  9. Dakota! First of all, Happy Birthday Marine! Second, keep your head up. I served in our beloved Corps for 12 years, 2 separate tours, loved every minute. Never faced a shitstorm like you did but did lose 2 close buds. Dakota, you survived for them, survivors guilt is a horrible feeling. Know that those you lost, live on through you. Why not you? We all have a plan, who knows, I've cheated death so much, I feel the grim reaper and I are drinking buddies. I can't say those around me have been so lucky, I've lost to many family members and friends and two amazing canines (they hurt real bad).

    You are what the Marine Corps is all about! OORAH! SEMPER FI!

    Adrian Bruneau

  10. I hope you have many more, and I hope you accept them with grace.

  11. Just saw you on CBS morning news. I'm sorry about the loss of your friends, Marine. I offer up prayers for you.

    Don't you just love it when people walk up to you, thanking you for your sacrifice, never really knowing what that sacrifice entails?

    From one Marine to another, thanks for being squared away.


  12. Dearest Dakota,
    I was compelled to reach out to you after hearing your story on CBS Sunday morning just now. First of all, my deepest condolences for the lost of your comrades in battle and also deepest thank you for serving our country. I never was in the military but grew up being a military brat and still so proud of my Dad now more than ever.

    As you have learned, losing your friends, family and close ones when you are so young can be very mentally challenging and difficult for you to "tune in" to everyone around you. It is almost a numbing feeling knowing there are not many people around you that you can connect with below the surface. My two teenage sons lost their beautiful Mom who was an amazing school teacher and their life long mentor. As hard as it is to move on in life without the special people that have loved you, you learn that you are the blessed one to carry them with you in heart and soul.

    You, like my boys, have an amazing gift now that allows you to tune in to this world at much deeper levels and truly appreciate really what is precious. Live for the NOW moments in life and keep paying forward like you are doing so well. Through reflection and love, you are the chosen one to be proud and live life to the fullest.

    As you have learned from all the great responses to your blog, there are alot of extraordinary people in this beautiful world that can tune in to you. Keep on paying it forward Dakota with honor for yourself and your comrades.

    If you are ever in Atlanta, would love to meet you and buy you a beer! KTS (keep the strength). Rod

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Dakota,

      I'm just a mom from Missouri, who has 2 boys your age. Your story ripped thru my heart, as I'm sure it did to every mommy in the country.

      Just wanted to stop by and give you a virtual hug...and an invitation to stop by the Ozarks if you are ever in the area (we are one hour east of Branson)

      There is no peace to be found, like hiking and canoeing in our woods. Mama always will be barbecuing up some tri-tips at days end, and the house is always full of laughter when the guys are home. Deer season is about to start, and that's almost a national holiday here, too.

      Know that you remain in my heart, and daily prayers. Keep getting up everyday, showering, and gettin' to work. It seemed to work for day at a time.


      e wilson

  14. Just wanna say "Hey!" I've seen you on several shows, including an appearance with David Letterman, and enjoy your honesty, but realize your pain. I listened to you say it all again on CBS This Morning and still can't get over your heart. You are a good person!

    May you find some peace in time and come to know how grateful OUR America is to you, and all those like you who continue to volunteer to serve this nation. I give thanks to your family from US too, for them 'letting' you go to war and accepting you as a different kind of man when you returned.

    Please take care, with Lovin' PurrZ from me and my LucKy Se7en CatZ and 1 big-o damn dog (I mean that with love by the way!). X,T

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  17. Hi Dakota, we have a team running in a 5k mud run on 5/11. We represent vfw post 2728 and are running to build comerarade and raise awareness for ptsd. Interested in joining us? Mike

  18. Thank you for your service Dakota. Part of my job is watching for counterfeit merchandise for my friend. I found autographed pics on ebay of him that people who acquired them sait they were copies. I found one of you there also. It is against ebay's policy to sell such photos. Thought you would like to know.

  19. I had the privilege of working with Gen Amos and "Miss Bonnie" a few years back and agree with you. He's a stellar Marine and his wife is a sweetheart. Semper Fi