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Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer has a book coming out in September. (Thomas Brown / Staff)
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WEST MILFORD, N.J. — Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer attempted to kill himself in 2010, one year before he became the first living Marine in 38 years to receive the nation's highest valor award.
That acknowledgement is among several jarring revelations in a new book written by Meyer and best-selling author Bing West. "Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War," due to be published Sept. 25, chronicles Meyer's childhood in Kentucky, his time in the Marine Corps and the disastrous mission on Sept. 8, 2009, that saw Meyer and his team of U.S. and Afghan troops ambushed, overrun and trapped for hours without any help.
Meyer, 24, is now a sergeant in the Individual Ready Reserve. He received the Medal of Honor from President Obama in September for braving enemy fire multiple times that day in an attempt to locate and rescue four missing members of his team. A corporal at the time, he found the men dead in a hillside trench and helped carry the bodies out of the valley.
Marine Corps Times obtained an advanced copy of the book and met with Meyer on Tuesday in New Jersey, where he was visiting friends. In a wide-ranging interview, he discussed its contents, his memories and what it's like living in the public eye as a Medal of Honor recipient.
Meyer wrestled with whether to disclose the suicide attempt, he said, but decided to do so because it shows the realities of war. The close call occurred in September 2010, just days after the first anniversary of the battle in Ganjgal, a small village in Afghanistan's Kunar province, Meyer said. He had been drinking at a friend's house in Kentucky, he said, and on the way home pulled his pickup truck over and took from the glove compartment what he thought was a loaded Glock pistol.
"I just remember pulling over, and it was at my buddy's shop. He had a shop that his dad and him work out of, and I just pulled in the driveway and was like, ‘I just can't do it anymore,' you know?" Meyer said. "I said, ‘I'm done. I just can't take it anymore. That's it.'"
Meyer pulled the trigger and was shocked when it didn't go off, he wrote in the book. He suspects someone else unloaded the pistol, but declined to disclose who it was. He subsequently sought treatment for post-traumatic stress and is doing better now, he said.
"That right there was rock bottom," he said in the interview. "I could never get lower than that, you know? And seeing how close it was that I was to take my own life, I think it's something that a lot of veterans go through coming back and dealing with the realities of war."
The book describes in detail the heavy combat he and others faced during the Battle of Ganjgal. Meyer recalls not only burning through thousands of machine-gun rounds while manning the turrets in several Humvees, but killing an enemy fighter in hand-to-hand combat.
"It's so unreal in your mind," he said. "Playing back through it, it's like whenever I was in that valley I almost felt like I was watching myself. Looking back on it, I can see myself there. The dreams, you think about it so much and you try to make sense of everything."
In great detail, Meyer also makes the case in his book that former Army Capt. Will Swenson deserves the Medal of Honor for his actions that day. Swenson fought through enemy fire for several hours to coordinate the team's efforts, relay information to higher headquarters and evacuate wounded troops.
To date, Swenson has received no award for his actions in Ganjgal.
Commanders initially put him up for the Medal of Honor, but his case stalled after his nomination was lost, Army officials said. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, ordered the Army to investigate what happened to Swenson's nomination last summer, and another package has since been submitted on his behalf.
If Swenson is awarded the Medal of Honor, it would mark the first time two service members received it for the same battle since 1993's Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia. The actions in that firefight were outlined in the movie and book "Black Hawk Down."