Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War
by Dakota Meyer
List Price: $27.00
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: September 25, 2012
Reviewed by Bryan Mitchell Marsh
Dakota Meyer jumps out of the bullet-ridden Ford Ranger, dodging Taliban machinegun fire and the occasional rocket propelled grenade as he maneuvers through the mud-brick walls of Ganjgal, Afghanistan. It seems that every time he moves, he runs into more wounded Afghan soldiers. Unwilling to leave them to fend for themselves, Meyer keeps picking the wounded up and hauling them back to the sputtering truck. While he’s glad to help these men, they aren’t who he’s really searching for. As the hours pass and the Taliban’s attacks intensify, Meyer begins to wonder if he’ll ever see his friends again.
In more than a decade of fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Medal of Honor has only been given to ten recipients. Of those ten, only three lived through the actions that earned them the medal. Corporal Dakota Meyer is one of those three, and his book,
Into the Fire, co-written with author Bing West, has recently been released. While one might expect a book such as this to be somewhat self-glorifying, Into the Fire couldn’t be farther from that. In this work, Meyer tells of the tragic, but also incredibly courageous, events that took place in the fall of 2009.
Rather than diving headlong into the fateful battle of September 8, 2009, Meyer takes you on a detour, narrating his life. As the reader follows along, you can’t help but feel like you truly get to know him. Raised in a small Kentucky farming community, Meyer seems no different than the hard-working, Carhardt-wearing country boy who sat across from you in Algebra. Dakota sees his home in the south in the same stereotypical manner as many others do, remarking that, “Kentucky is pretty much what you think: cheerful bluegrass music… rolling hills, good moonshine, great bourbon and pretty girls.” Following along with Dakota, you understand how much his home is personified in who he is. A great athlete and hardworking student, it’s not until he joins the Marine Corps that Meyer begins to stand out as an unrelenting and exceptional warrior.
It’s not long until Meyer catches the eyes of his superiors and he’s sent to sniper school. Soon after completing the course, Meyer volunteers to deploy to Afghanistan as part of an advisor team to the Afghan National Army. While Meyer’s interaction with his new team is less than friendly at first, barriers quickly fall in their relationships and soon you see that these men are more to each other than co-workers, they’re brothers who’ll stand by each other no matter what they face. The picture that Meyers paints of this new family is perhaps the most moving aspect of the book.
Through an honest and often self-effacing narrative, the reader begins to understand the true brotherhood that formed between Meyer and his team and soon it’s obvious they would fight through hell and back to make sure each one made it home. This bond between Meyer and his fellow Marines is what drives him to fight through one of fiercest Taliban attacks the war in Afghanistan has ever seen. While Meyer’s account is inspiring and heartbreaking, it is also laced in a controversy and one cannot help but be infuriated at times by the lack of support given to Meyer and his fellow Marines as well as their Afghan counterparts that day.
Though experiencing such a tragic and infuriating event such as he has, Meyer manages to write a fair and honest account of that day. He abstains from ranting about the grievous negligence of his superiors, but instead, presents the facts as they happened and sticks to his describing what he felt, saw and did. With such a great deal of self-restraint in his writing, the reader doesn’t have to maintain a high level of skepticism, or worry about having the wool pulled over his eyes by an angry and biased survivor. Meyer’s commitment to telling this story in a fair and balanced manner makes for a superb and enjoyable read.