Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer is perhaps this country's best-recognized war hero, a man who risked his life over and over again to save his buddies from a Taliban ambush. That's why he's the only living Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor - the nation's highest award for valor - for his actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. It's undoubtedly one reason why the defense giant BAE Systems hired Meyer after he left the Corps.
Then, BAE considered selling high-tech sniper rifle scopes to the Pakistani military. Meyer objected, given Islamabad's um, unambiguous relationship with the terrorists and militants based in Pakistan. Then he quit. Suddenly, Meyer's former bosses at BAE started calling the war hero "mentally unstable" and a drunk.
That's according to a lawsuit Meyer filed against BAE, which alleges that the defense behemoth blocked the retired Marine from getting a job with a competitor by slandering his character.
Things started to unravel earlier this year, BAE sought to sell advanced thermal optic scopes to the Pakistanis for their sniper rifles. That's 100 percent legal, thanks to the U.S. government's decade-long decision to sell the Pakistanis billions of dollars' worth of military gear, in the hope of cementing Islamabad's commitment to fighting terrorism. But BAE employee Meyer questioned whether the sale was responsible.
"We are taking the best gear, the best technology on the market to date and giving it to guys known to stab us in the back," Meyer wrote to his supervisor, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s Julian Barnes, who obtained Meyer's lawsuit.
When BAE didn't heed him, Meyer decided to take a job with his old defense firm, Ausgar Technologies. But Meyer didn't get the job. His supervisor at BAE, Bobby McCreight, allegedly e-mailed a Defense Department acquisition official to say Meyer was clearly traumatized from combat, "had a problem related to drinking in a social setting," and even mocked Meyer's forthcoming Medal of Honor award as his "pending star status." The suit says an Ausgar official informed Meyer that he wouldn't be rehired, thanks to the Defense Department official's decision to pass McCreight's assessment on to Ausgar.
This man who McCreight allegedly mocked. On Sept. 8, 2008, more than 50 insurgents ambushed Meyer's patrol in Kunar Province. They held the high ground, firing rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and machine guns on Marines and their Afghan partners in what would become a six-hour battle. The barrage left at least four Marines and several dozen Afghans cut off from the rest of the patrol. Meyer's response was to climb in a truck and descend further into the valley to rescue the team, under what his Medal of Honor citation describes as "heavy enemy fire" and "despite a shrapnel wound to the arm." Meyer didn't do that once. He did it five times, the citation reports, "in the face of almost certain death." And that made Meyer the first living Marine to get the medal for his actions during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.
It might be added that Meyer's tour near the border with Pakistan might have given him a particular sensitivity to the risks associated with arming the Pakistani military. The U.S. commander in charge of eastern Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, recently told reporters that those alleged U.S. allies help insurgents rocket U.S. troops on the border. It would seem that Meyer hasn't stopped trying to save U.S. troops in danger.
BAE now has a massive P.R. problem on its hands - the latest of many. For years, officials in Britain and in America have investigated the firm on bribery and corruption charges. In 2010, the company agreed to pay a $400 million fine for violating arms control restrictions, and lying to federal officials about the BAE's actions. That was followed up by an additional $48 million fine in 2011.
Spokespeople declined to comment on the lawsuit to the Journal. But the company, which makes everything from anti-ship microwave guns to stealthy killer drones to freaky invisibility cloaks for tanks, risks calling a war hero an exaggerator or a liar in defending itself. Good luck with that one.