Dakota Meyer never asked for the attention he's getting and he's never considered himself a hero. He was thrust into the spotlight because of his actions in battle on the worst day of his life in one of the roughest places on earth, a day when his best friends died despite his most determined efforts to save them.
Now, the Medal of Honor recipient is dealing with a new firestorm. Allegations made by a writer embedded with his unit that some details of the narrative of that day are false.
I've met Dakota Meyer at several events. We had dinner together and spent 90 minutes in a car during rush hour in New York City, talking about anything and everything. I've spoken with him dozens of times on the phone, when the 23-year-old was home on his farm in rural eastern Kentucky or traveling in between the parades, dinners, classrooms and other personal appearances that have dominated his days since he received the nation's highest honor from the President in the White House.
To friends, I describe Dakota as a big kid, very funny, quick and sharp witted. He's also warm and friendly and honest, handling himself with amazing composure considering how much he's had to deal with and how different his life is today.
Dakota says "it's not about me, it's about America. I don't care about skin color or religion or political parties. I believe in this country."
He respects the flag and the freedoms it represents. In fact, he went to war to fight for the writer's right to print the article that has now created a dark cloud over his shoulder.
He's upset about the story and frustrated he can't respond to it directly. There's much he's told me that I'd love to share but promised I wouldn't. He's letting the Marine Corp handle it, avoiding what he says would be "a war of words."
"Don't envy me", Dakota says. His face is plastered on front pages now with headlines like "Heroic Actions, Distorted Tale?". His friends and family see it and have to deal with it. Strangers approach him on the street, paper in hand, asking "is this you?"
Dakota is staying focused on what's most important. He's raising money for the Marine Corp Scholarship Foundation, collecting more than $300,000 towards his $1 million goal. He wants to use whatever status he has to help others and spread the word that we live in the greatest country on earth.
He won't call himself a hero. But he is one. One of thousands, serving this nation every single day.
Rick Leventhal is a senior correspondent for Fox News Channel.
Rick Leventhal currently serves as New York-based senior correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network as a correspondent in 1997.