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Medal of Honor recipient declines city's offer to file late application for FDNY

By Chris Boyette, CNN
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Thu September 29, 2011
Sgt. Dakota Meyer, who received the Medal of Honor, has decided to not accept an exclusive FDNY late application opportunity.
Sgt. Dakota Meyer, who received the Medal of Honor, has decided to not accept an exclusive FDNY late application opportunity.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sgt. Dakota Meyer missed deadline to apply to fire department
  • A federal judge offered to reopen the window but only for him
  • Meyer says he wants no special treatment

New York (CNN) -- Sgt. Dakota Meyer, the 23-year-old Marine who received the Medal of Honor earlier this month, wants to join another well-known outfit celebrated for bravery in the face of danger, the New York City Fire Department. Unfortunately, he missed the deadline to sign up, so he has to wait four more years.

And when a federal judge agreed Monday to reopen the application window for one day to allow Meyer, and only Meyer, to apply, he said no, no special treatment.

On September 15 Meyer met President Barack Obama and received the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House.

Caught up in the bevy of activities surrounding the Medal of Honor ceremony, Meyer missed the deadline to apply to the FDNY, according to his attorney Keith Sullivan.

"The Fire Department would love to have him. Who wouldn't, whatever the organization?" said Frank Dwyer, a spokesman for the FDNY. "He's truly an example of what the military is all about, the best of what America has to offer."

According to Dwyer, the city generally offers the opportunity for members of the public to apply to become a New York City firefighter only every four years. Step one in the process is to sign up to take an entrance exam. This year, the window for potential candidates to sign up was July 15 through September 19, Dwyer said.

Marine receives highest military honor
Marine recognized with Medal of Honor

Monday, Sullivan and the city filed a motion to allow them to reopen the official application period to allow Meyer to apply. The city sought to reopen the applications to all would-be candidates, but U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that other applicants had plenty of time to sign up for the firefighter test, and the one-day window for a late application would only be open to Meyer, "in view of Sergeant Meyer's recognized and truly exceptional military service," court documents said.

"We suggested in our court filing that the application period should be reopened for both Sgt. Meyer and the general public. However, we will respect the judge's decision," said Kate O'Brien Ahlers, spokeswoman for the New York City Law Department.

Sullivan was disappointed in the court's decision and the city's decision to accept it. "The city made it perfectly clear that additional applications would be too burdensome for them to process. I am actually ashamed for them. If Dakota took the path of least resistance in Afghanistan the way the city did on this issue, he would not be a Medal of Honor recipient and there would be 36 more dead soldiers," he said.

Garaufis cited special recruitment efforts by the city intended to encourage members of black and Hispanic communities to apply to the FDNY. "A brief, general re-opening of the application period, especially without any accompanying recruitment effort beyond the City's proposed updates of the New York City Fire Department's and City Administrative Services's websites, would create a serious risk of an adverse impact on the minority groups who are substantially under-represented in the ranks of the FDNY," Garaufis wrote in his decision.

Meyer said he takes responsibility for missing the application deadline, and if no one else can apply during the reopened window, he won't apply either.

"Unless the filing period is open to everyone, I can not morally accept it," said Meyer in a news release. "I got to where I am in life by sticking to my core values and principles, I'm not about to change. I am very disappointed that I missed the deadline by only 12 hours, but I accept full responsibility for that."

The Kentucky Marine earned the nation's highest award for valor when he braved a storm of enemy fire to recover wounded and dead fellow American and Afghan troops during a six-hour firefight in Afghanistan. His actions saved the lives of 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers and 23 Afghan soldiers, according to the Marines' Medal of Honor account.

Meyer is the first living U.S. Marine in 41 years to be awarded the medal.

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