LOUISVILLE, Ky. --
From Medal of Honor recipient to Marine co-pilot, Sgt. Dakota L. Meyer flew back seat in a Marine Harrier over his home-state of Kentucky during the 2012 Thunder Over Louisville air show April 21, 2012.
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point based Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 facilitated the flight in a two-seat training variant of the tactical single-seat Harrier.
“This is my first time ever flying in a Harrier, but I’ve seen Top Gun about a dozen times,” said Meyer. “If Tom Cruise can handle flying in a jet, then I can too. I just hope I don’t throw-up.”
VMAT-203 is the only squadron in the American military that flies the two-seated T/AV-8B Harrier. The training version takes off and lands vertically like its tactical counterpart. The additional seat allows for pilot instructors and students to fly together, something that worked well for Meyer.
Lt. Col. Robert J. Fails, executive officer for the squadron, was at the controls for Meyer’s flight.
“What Dakota Meyer and the medal represent is a big deal for the Marine Corps and for this squadron,” said Fails. “It’s a privilege to fly with Meyer.”
Meyer’s first feel for being a pilot came when VMAT-203 Marines fitted him for his specialized flight suit and gear a day in advance of the air show.
“It was horrible getting fitted and all suited up,” said Meyer. “I don’t envy pilots at all, that gear is uncomfortable.”
Pfc. Jaime A. Cardoza, flight equipment technician with the squadron said he never thought he would ever be suiting up a Medal of Honor recipient.
“It was an honor to meet him,” Cardoza said.
Growing up in Greensburg, Ky., nearly 80 miles away, Meyer used to watch the air show on TV and he said that “Thunder Over Louisville” was the talk of the town.
“Everyone was always talking about ‘what’s going on at Thunder’,” said Meyer. “It’s a big deal, so it’s going to be awesome to be part of what I always used to watch on TV.”
The squadron Marines supporting the show spent a little time with the Medal of Honor recipient, as many worked with him in preparation for the flight. Lance Cpl. Jacob M. Heaton, an ejection seat mechanic with the squadron, had one-on-one time with Meyer teaching him how to safely arm and disarm the ejection seat and explaining to him the basic cockpit controls.
“It’s not every day that you get to meet a Medal of Honor recipient,” said Heaton. “I feel grateful to be able to work for the air show and support Sgt. Meyer.”
Meyer thanked the Marines of VMAT-203 and said he loves any chance to spend time with Marines.
“I miss being in the Marine Corps more then anything in the world,” said Meyer. “The Marine Corps is by far the greatest institution on the face of the planet.”