ONLY ON WDRB: Dakota Meyer still fighting battles
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- WDRB's Lindsay Allen spoke with Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer about the battles he continues to fight at home, and what pushed him to try to take his own life, in a story you'll see only on WDRB.
He calls it the day he died, but Dakota Meyer says he'll spend every day for the rest of his life living for his four friends whose names are etched on the bracelets he never takes off.
"I died Sept. 8, 2009, when I found my guys dead, but that doesn't mean I stop there," he said. "That doesn't mean I come home and drink my life away."
"Every day that I don't have enough respect for myself to push on, I can look down, and I've got four reasons. These guys never got a chance to push on."
Pushing on hasn't been easy, though.
President Obama awarded him the Medal of Honor for what he did on what he calls the worst day of his life.
Near the village of Ganjgal, Afghanistan, Meyer disobeyed orders. He and four others drove into enemy fire time and time again to rescue his comrades under attack. Over the course of five hours, the Marine sniper kept on going back, carried wounded Afghan soldiers to safety and provided cover so that 36 others could escape.
But he could not save four of his men.
To this day, Meyer says he feels like a failure because he couldn't get to his friends in time.
"Every time I put that medal on, it's like, 'Hey, this is what I have to do to suffer to let them know I'm a failure in the eyes of the nation.'"
"You really feel that way? Still? Even after writing down the story? You still feel like a failure?" asked WDRB's Lindsay Allen.
"Oh yeah," Meyer replied. "I got into it with an interviewer one time. He was trying to debate it. I said, 'If I'm not a failure, 'Why don't you tell my teammates I'm not?' And you can't."
Meyer wrote a book about the events of the day. It's titled, "Into the Fire." In it, he also reveals he tried to kill himself shortly after coming home to Greensburg, Ky.
"I really think the day I decided to take my life, I felt like if this is what I have to deal with at this young of an age, and this is the way I feel right now, I'm not living 60 more years with that ...so lets just get it over with now," Meyer said.
Meyer pulled out a gun in the parking lot of his buddy's shop, where he knew he'd be found the next morning. He pulled the trigger, but there was no bullet.
"I told myself, 'If this is what you really want to do, all you've got to do is put a round in the chamber and do it,'" Meyer said. "So either do that and get it over with, or if you put the car in drive, don't ever do it again."
Although Meyer talks about his difficulty adjusting to "normal life," he says he hates the term PTSD.
"To be honest with you, I don't believe in PTSD," Meyer said. "We've gotta find a different name for it."
He says he had a normal human reaction after witnessing the ugliness of war.
"If you stick your hand in a fire, you're going to get burnt," he said. "OK, you go over to war. If you don't come back from war and there's things that don't bother you, you're probably not human."
Meyer now spends his days speaking about veterans' causes. He's an advocate for the program "Hiring Our Heroes" and owns his own construction business.
"If I'm home four days, I'm happy with that," he said.
Meyer spends just a few days a month in the small town he grew up in -- and he thinks that's a good thing. He says in some ways being a public figure is a curse.
He says there are those who say of him, "He's 24, he's got the Medal of Honor, let's test him."
Meyer was assaulted near Columbia back in December. An 18-year-old was arrested.
"It's not just hard on me, it's hard on my whole family," he said. "It's hard for reporters to call my family and say, 'Did you know your grandson is an alcoholic?'"
But Meyer also understands he can use his public status for good. He's led the charge to help get the interpreter who aided his Marine unit in Afghanistan out of the country.
"Why do you think he reached out to you specifically?" Allen asked.
"Because he knows I'll take care of him," Meyer replied. "The last thing I told him when I left was, 'I will get you home. I will get you to America.'"
After years of red tape, Meyer has received word his interpreter has gotten a Visa and should be in the U.S. in 30 to 60 days.
Meyer is now working on a second book about leadership. He's trying to move his life forward. What he doesn't want to do is keep reliving the past.
"I'll never read the book again because it brought me back to...it really tore me up, you know?" he said.
Meyer makes a conscious effort to wake up with a positive attitude, posting a morning motivation daily on his Facebook page. It's his way of finding peace with his past -- a past that will forever haunt him.
"I told them I didn't want it," he said. "I told them I didn't deserve it. How many times have I said that?"
"In my eyes I didn't save enough -- and I didn't kill enough," he added.
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