Live coverage: Grand Prix Pro/Celebrity Race
He saved the lives of more than a dozen Marines in Afghanistan in 2009, and for his bravery, was bestowed the highest honor in military service.
Now Dakota Meyer, 24, will get to say the most famous words in auto racing at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach before the biggest race event on April 21: "Drivers, start your engines! "
Meyer, given the Medal of Honor in 2010, was named Grand Marshal of the 39th annual race April 19-21. He is also competing as a driver in the pro-celebrity race.
"We are extremely honored to have Dakota Meyer serve as Grand Marshal for the Toyota Grand Prix, an event that draws thousands of visitors who will have the opportunity to honor his service to our country," Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, said in a statement. "The Grand Prix Association has a long tradition of honoring those who serve in the military, and we are pleased to have a Medal of Honor recipient represent this year's race. "
Meyer, a U.S. Marine and Kentucky native, is the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient, the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, and the first living U.S. Marine in 38 years to be honored.
On Sept. 8, 2009, near the village of Ganjgal, Meyer learned that three U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy Corpsman were missing after being ambushed by a group of insurgents, according to online sources and military accounts.
The region was known to be inhabited by insurgents, but he went in and found four dead servicemembers, stripped of their weapons. Meyer then evacuated a dozen of his peers and provided cover for another two dozen Marines and soldiers so they could escape.
During a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House in 2011, President Obama Meyer's "daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the six-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy's attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on."
Meyer upheld the "highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service," Obama said.
In addition to serving at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach's Grand Marshal, Meyer will also drive in Saturday's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, one of seven racing events during the weekend event.
Jesse Metcalfe, star of TNT's "Dallas," said Meyer will be a "force on the track. "
"Dakota has no fear," Metcalfe said. "He is having a lot of fun out there, but unlike a lot of us, he isn't afraid to wreck - I'd say he is a front runner to win this thing. "
Brett Davern, who stars as Jake Rosati in MTV's hit series "Awkward," agreed with Metcalfe.
"Dakota has been awesome to be around and he really has no fear on the track - he is just dominating," Davern said. "Plus, Dakota and I have formed an alliance, he's 'Shake' and I'm 'Bake," and together we are an amazing one-two punch and we plan on making sure the fans have some excitement in Long Beach. "
Since receiving the Medal of Honor, Meyer wrote an account his experience, "Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War," and fundraises with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. Most recently, Meyer has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Toyota for the Hiring Our Heroes program.
For information on the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach visit firstname.lastname@example.org, @KelseyDuckett