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The Marine Corps promoted an exaggerated and unsubstantiated account of the actions that led to Sgt. Dakota Meyer receiving the Medal of Honor, including details contained in a narrative published the day the award was announced, according to an investigative report published Wednesday.
The Corps' narrative of the battle http://www.marines.mil/community/Pages/MedalofHonorSgtDakotaMeyer-HeroicActions.aspx">was posted on the Corps' website on Aug. 12 as the White House announced the award. It credits Meyer with saving the lives of 13 U.S. service members and 23 Afghan forces in a fierce firefight on Sept. 8, 2009, in Ganjgal, Afghanistan.
The account includes information that was "untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated," according to a story published Wednesday by McClatchy Newspapers. In particular, it questioned the number of lives Meyer saved, while acknowledging his unquestioned heroism.
In a statement released late Wednesday night, the Marine Corps said it is "very disappointed" with McClatchy's decision to publish its report and that officials stand by its awards process.
"Because of the nature of the events supporting awards for valor, it is normal for minor discrepancies to appear when reviewing the source information and collecting eyewitness statements," the statement reads. "… The narrative of Cpl. Meyer's Heroic Actions was posted on the Headquarters Marine Corps webpage to allow the American public to read Cpl. Meyer's personal account of the sequence of events and actions on this day. We supported this communication method in large part because of Sgt. Meyer's personal desire to not retell with each interview, and thereby re-live, what he calls the 'worst day of his life.'"
Meyer left active duty as a corporal in June 2010 and was later promoted to sergeant in the Individual Ready Reserve. He was unavailable for comment.
The narrative was produced by the Marine Corps Division of Public Affairs at the Pentagon and published without the same level of scrutiny as Meyer's award citation, Marine sources told Marine Corps Times, speaking on the condition of anonymity. It is based primarily on interviews with Meyer, they said.
The piece was written by Jonathan Landay, a journalist who survived the battle, citing witness statements and an "exhaustive investigation" of military documents. He met with top Marine officials this week to discuss his story, two Marine sources told Marine Corps Times.
Those in attendance included Gen. Joseph Dunford, who traveled to meet with Meyer and other survivors within days of the battle, according to a source with knowledge of the Corps' investigation. Dunford became assistant commandant of the Marine Corps in October 2010.
http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=3957">Meyer's Medal of Honor citation is less detailed than the narrative, and went through scrutiny during a vetting process involving Marine officers in Meyer's chain of command and at Marine Corps headquarters, Marine sources said. His nomination was approved by Gen. James Conway before he retired as the Corps' top officer in October 2010.
After meeting with McClatchy this week, officials at Headquarters Marine Corps added a statement to the narrative describing Meyer's actions, said Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, a Marine spokesman.
"The ‘Heroic Actions' summary was compiled in collaboration with Sgt. Dakota Meyer's personal account and HQMC Division of Public Affairs," the disclaimer reads. It was still posted online Wednesday night.
The White House told McClatchy that the president was proud to present Meyer with the nation's top valor award. Obama's speech during the ceremony cited some information that appears to have come from the narrative, including the number of U.S. forces and Afghan troops saved in the battle. It was prepared by his speechwriting team based on extensive documentation from the Corps, White House officials said.