“I live every day as if it’s Memorial Day,” former Marine Dakota Meyer states.
The second youngest living Medal of Honor recipient wakes up each day with gratitude for the men and women who have sacrificed everything for the freedoms of people they’ve never met.
Meyer enlisted in the Marines in 2006, immediately jumping from high school graduation to basic training at Parris Island Recruit Training Depot. In 2007, Meyer became one of the youngest school-trained snipers in the Marine Corps, deploying to Iraq later that same year. He was deployed again in 2009-10, this time to Afghanistan. Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on September 8, 2009 during the Battle of Ganjgal where, according to the official Medal of Honor citation, he “single-handedly turned the tide of the battle, saved 36 Marines and soldiers and recovered the bodies of his fallen brothers.”
While serving in the Corps was undoubtedly difficult, Meyer will be the first to claim suffering is the true glue that brings people together. He understands that “the more you suffer together, the closer you get,” pointing to both high school sports and the Marine Corps as groups he bonded with due to challenges — from wind sprints to deployment. But he firmly believes each difficult experience can result in a positive impact, lending to the support and betterment of others.
For Meyer, this philosophy is the “why” behind his fitness app Own the Dash Training. The name points to the dash between the day you’re born and the day you die. Everyone’s “dash” is different in experience and length, but it always is what makes up the legacy that is left behind.
Own the Dash is Meyer’s current legacy-building project, as he works to provide authentic, achievable fitness to anyone who wants to better themselves. He’s in it for the long haul — no fads allowed. What Own the Dash brings is sustainable habits that assist individuals in meeting their current goals, improving their lives for the future.
Part of Own the Dash is realizing that an individual’s “why” behind their fitness goals may change — and with it, the goals themselves. Meyer references certain phases of his life — his fitness requirements in the Marines differed from his high school sports goals, as well as his current fitness goals. Today, as a father and firefighter, Meyer’s reasons for physical fitness have changed. Protecting his community and his family is what his days revolve around, and he recognizes the importance of staying physically active so that reality can continue for years to come.
To help his trainees set and push for their own goals, the former Marine challenges them to re-define what they consider to be hard, pointing to what United States servicemen and women train through every day. There’s no comparison to an hour in the gym and deployment. “When we start putting it into perspective, I think it’s a strong reality check for us,” Meyer explains.
When asked about his time in the Corps, Meyer recalls his physical training: “I was always training for the unknown, where the stakes were as high as they could get.” He goes on to explain the severity of this — the physical requirements that were in place: “The biggest fear you have is that one of your guys will fall down, weighing 350 lbs with all their gear, and you won’t be able to carry them out of there.”
Meyer discusses his time in the Marine Corps with humility, pointing out that he was doing the job he had committed to: “Do I think running back into that building — what I got the medal of honor for — is courage? No. I trained every single day for moments like that, it’s just what I was supposed to do.”
While Dakota Meyer’s life has changed since his time in the Marines, his view of courage, as well as his reverence for the men and women who’ve sacrificed everything for the freedom Americans experience, remains the same.
“Courage is a single mom. Courage is standing up for someone you don’t even know. Courage is taking chances on people so they can find success. Courage is trying something new.”
This Memorial Day, follow Meyer’s lead: figure out what you want your legacy to be, what you need to achieve to get there, and own the dash.
About the author
Lily is a Brooklyn-based wellness enthusiast who never says no to trying a new fitness class. As a previous fitness coach and current health editor, she loves New York's health scene and can often be found in a hot yoga studio, attending a meditation seminar, or going for a long run in Central Park. Lily is originally from Oregon and moved to Brooklyn in 2017—one day when she makes it big, she'll spend her winters on the West Coast and her summers in New York's best borough.
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