Two years ago, Marine corporal Dakota Meyer charged five times into heavy enemy fire in Taliban-held areas in Afghanistan to aid fellow U.S. service members.
On Wednesday, when Meyer had a beer with President Obama, things got ugly for another reason.
Obama will award Meyer, 23, the Medal of Honor on Thursday, the highest award given to members of the armed services. He’s just the third living veteran to receive the award for service in Afghanistan or Iraq and the first living Marine to be honored since 1973.
When White House staff contacted him to arrange the ceremony, Meyer asked if he could have a beer with Obama, and the president invited him to the White House on Wednesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
Carney posted a picture on his Twitter account of Obama and Meyer, both in shirtsleeves and ties, sitting at a metal patio table, each with a clear glass mug of ale. Several members of the White House press corps then “re-tweeted” the picture, which was taken by official White House photographer Pete Souza. Among them were Jake Tapper of ABC News, who has more than 138,000 Twitter followers, and Ed Henry of Fox News, who has more than 35,000.
Many of the followers chimed in, with most offering praise for the photo and the president’s hospitality. But some others apparently offered more cynical comments about the event being a staged photo-op for Obama.
It didn’t take long for the usually combative White House reporters to stick up for the embattled president on this one.
“It would be nice to be able to post a photo of the president having a beer with a Marine without being beseiged with snark. #GrowUp,” Tapper later wrote on his account.
Henry wrote: “Come on folks, just because WH released a photo of President’s beer w/Dakota Meyer doesn’t mean its ‘just a photo-op’”
Then he added: “Surely you can disagree with President on issues, if that’s how you feel, but still appreciate him recognizing uncommon valor by a Marine”
According to the White House, Meyer was serving in Afghanistan’s eastern Konar province on Sept. 8, 2009. He charged multiple times into a Taliban-held area near the eastern village of Ganjgal after learning that three fellow Marines and a Navy corpsman were missing following an attack by a group of insurgents.
Under heavy enemy fire, he located the four Americans - all of them dead - and extracted their bodies with the help of Afghan government troops.
Meyer also saved the lives of 36 Marines and soliders — 13 Americans and 23 Afghans, Carney said.
Obama is scheduled to present Meyer the award at 2:45 p.m. in the East Room. New York Times photographer Joao Silva, who lost both legs while stepping on a land mine during a patrol with U.S. forces, is expected to attend the ceremony as a guest of Meyer’s. Silva, wearing a dark suit, was seen checking in at the security gate, walking on prosthetic legs with the help of a cane.