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Into the Fire

Cover of Into the Fire

Into the Fire

A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War
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"The story of what Dakota did . . . will be told for generations."--President Barack Obama, from remarks given at Meyer's Medal of Honor ceremonyIn the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a...
"The story of what Dakota did . . . will be told for generations."--President Barack Obama, from remarks given at Meyer's Medal of Honor ceremonyIn the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a...
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  • "The story of what Dakota did . . . will be told for generations."--President Barack Obama, from remarks given at Meyer's Medal of Honor ceremony

    In the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisors in a mountain village called Ganjigal. Firing from entrenched positions, the enemy was positioned to wipe out one hundred men who were pinned down and were repeatedly refused artillery support. Ordered to remain behind with the vehicles, twenty-one year-old Marine corporal Dakota Meyer disobeyed orders and attacked to rescue his comrades.

    With a brave driver at the wheel, Meyer stood in the gun turret exposed to withering fire, rallying Afghan troops to follow. Over the course of the five hours, he charged into the valley time and again. Employing a variety of machine guns, rifles, grenade launchers, and even a rock, Meyer repeatedly repulsed enemy attackers, carried wounded Afghan soldiers to safety, and provided cover for dozens of others to escape--supreme acts of valor and determination. In the end, Meyer and four stalwart comrades--an Army captain, an Afghan sergeant major, and two Marines--cleared the battlefield and came to grips with a tragedy they knew could have been avoided. For his actions on that day, Meyer became the first living Marine in three decades to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

    Into the Fire tells the full story of the chaotic battle of Ganjigal for the first time, in a compelling, human way that reveals it as a microcosm of our recent wars. Meyer takes us from his upbringing on a farm in Kentucky, through his Marine and sniper training, onto the battlefield, and into the vexed aftermath of his harrowing exploits in a battle that has become the stuff of legend.

    Investigations ensued, even as he was pitched back into battle alongside U.S. Army soldiers who embraced him as a fellow grunt. When it was over, he returned to the States to confront living with the loss of his closest friends. This is a tale of American values and upbringing, of stunning heroism, and of adjusting to loss and to civilian life.

    We see it all through Meyer's eyes, bullet by bullet, with raw honesty in telling of both the errors that resulted in tragedy and the resolve of American soldiers, U.S. Marines, and Afghan soldiers who'd been abandoned and faced certain death.

    Meticulously researched and thrillingly told, with nonstop pace and vivid detail, Into the Fire is the unvarnished story of a modern American hero.

    Praise for Into the Fire

    "A story of men at their best and at their worst . . . leaves you gaping in admiration at Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer's courage."--National Review

    "Meyer's dazzling bravery wasn't momentary or impulsive but deliberate and sustained."--The Wall Street Journal

    "[A] cathartic, heartfelt account . . . Combat memoirs don't get any more personal."--Kirkus Reviews

    "A great contribution to the discussion of an agonizingly complex subject."--The Virginian-Pilot

    "Black Hawk Down meets Lone Survivor."--Library Journal

Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1

    FINISH THE GAME

    "I hope to have God on my side," President Lincoln wrote in 1862, regarding the Union's chances for victory in the Civil War, "but I must have Kentucky."
    That independence of spirit that you might call the nation's soul is alive and well in the farming communities of central Kentucky.
    My tiny town of Columbia might be considered poor by some standards. We don't look at it like that. We enjoy being on our own, making do with what we scratch out for ourselves. The land is the reason people stay, generation after generation. If you drive through Columbia, you'll see modest homes and trailers on slab foundations, set near the road. Fields stretch out where cattle and horses graze. Nowadays, farming provides only a supplemental income for most families. Commutes of twenty to sixty miles are common to hold down day jobs. But the land keeps people returning to their homes at the end of the workday--this feeling of space that comes with owning the acres outside your back door.
    I'm not saying it's always wonderful. My home life growing up was like tumbling inside a washing machine as I shuttled around the middle of Kentucky with my mother. She was never content to stay in one place, or with one man, for too long. She was as smart as she was independent, though, and always landed some job that brought in a little money.
    Summers provided stability because my mother let me stay for weeks at Mike Meyer's farm. Mike was briefly married to my mother, and he legally adopted me when I was born. As for my biological father, I had no contact with him. I learned early on that just because you come from the same blood as someone doesn't mean they are family. Big Mike Meyer was my real dad as far as I was concerned.
    Big Mike, a University of Kentucky graduate, owned a threehundred-acre farm in Greensburg. He worked for Southern States, a farmer-owned cooperative, and brought in extra cash by raising beef cows. He lived in a plain house surrounded by open fields, with no curtains on the windows or pictures on the walls. He came home each day, put on his overalls, and tended to chores. Big Mike liked a steady routine, hunting, and the satisfaction of a well-run farm.
    His dad, Dwight, owned a bigger farm on the other side of the creek. Dwight had served in the Marines and had later been an engineer. He held himself and others to rigid standards, as if he could see the proper ways of living by looking through his surveyor's scope. He was, and still is, a fair but hard-to-please man. Despite my falling short fairly often, he always seemed to think I was someone worth having in the family. If you can feel that from your family, nothing can touch you.
    When asked to describe my nature, Big Mike likes to tell the story of the ATV. Big Mike kept his all-terrain vehicle in the shed next to the house. Consisting of a motor, a seat, and three or four wheels, the ATV is the twentieth-century horse on farms across America. It goes anywhere on a few gallons of gasoline and you don't have to shovel out the stable afterward. It can speed across fields, splash through creeks, and claw up hillsides. Without the ATV, life on a farm would be pure drudgery.
    As a four-year-old, I was obsessed with it. I'd perch on the seat for hours, begging Dad to take me for one more ride. Finally, he decided to teach me a lesson.
    "Ko," he said, which was my nickname, "I have work to do. No more rides. When you're big enough to start the machine yourself, you can drive it yourself."
    Since you had to kick-start it like a balky motorcycle, Dad thought it would be a year or more before I could do that. He'd sit on the stoop after work, ...

About the Author-
  • Dakota Meyer was born and raised in Columbia, Kentucky, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2006. A school-trained sniper and highly skilled infantryman, Corporal Meyer deployed to Iraq in 2007 and to Afghanistan in 2009. In 2011, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his unyielding courage in the battle of Ganjigal. He now competes at charity events in skeet and rifle competitions. He also speaks frequently at schools and veterans' events to raise awareness of our military and remains dedicated to the causes of our veterans. For the families of fallen troops, he has raised over one million dollars.

    Bing West, a Marine combat veteran, served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. He has been on hundreds of patrols in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. A nationally acclaimed war correspondent, he is the author of The Village; No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah; The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq; and The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, West has received the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation award, the Colby Award for military nonfiction, the Veterans of Foreign Wars News Media Award, and the Marine Corps University Foundation's Russell Leadership Award. He lives with his wife, Betsy, in Newport, Rhode Island.

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A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War
Dakota Meyer
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