Long Beach, Calif. – NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a racing hero to many, but in the person of Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer, the latter looks up to the famed driver in a unique way. “Dale Jr.’s always been a huge icon in my house as was his dad,” the former U. S. Marine Corps corporal said before hopping into a Toyota to begin practice for the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race at Long Beach.
“The thing I like about him most is that he goes out and tries to perform, and it (Dale Sr.’s accident) never turned him down,” Meyer said. “In America, when we see something (bad) happen, we often change our lifestyle and go away from it. To me, what Dale Jr. did is more impactful than his racing. He watched his father die in the sport, but he still goes out and pushes it to the limit. He didn’t let it change what he does with his life. I think that is a remarkable thing to show Americans that we still have to go out and do what we love to do and not turn away when something bad happens.”
Meyer, 24, has faced adversity often while serving in Afghanistan, and it was his heroics under fire that earned him the prestigious Medal of Honor, the first U. S. Marine to do so in 38 years. Under intense enemy fire, Meyer took it upon himself to throw safety aside while saving 36 troops and retrieving four fallen Marines, whose names are indelibly etched into his memory bank.
The Medal of Honor recipient sees himself as just another common man, who did what had to be done while shooting it out with the enemy. For his valor, President Barack Obama pinned the Medal of Honor on him, and the two shared a beer in the Rose Garden prior to the memorable ceremony.
This past weekend Meyer was battling others on the tricky Long Beach street course, but this battle will be minor compared to battling with enemy forces four years ago.
In addition to racing in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race, the Kentucky native was also be the grand marshal for Sunday’s IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race.
Although Meyer would like to be a full-time racer, he spends his free time working with Toyota and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce with the “Hiring our Heroes” initiative, a program for assisting veterans with their transition to the civilian job market.
While Meyer views Earnhardt as his hero, there’s a strong possibility that Dale Jr. would be equally impressed with the Medal of Honor winner.