SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A U.S. Marine given the nation's highest award for valor is suing a defense contractor that he says ridiculed his Medal of Honor, called him mentally unstable and suggested he had a drinking problem, thereby costing him a job.
Dakota Meyer received the Medal of Honor in September, two years after the young corporal saved 36 lives during a six-hour ambush in Afghanistan. He the third living recipient of the award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. After the medal was approved, President Barack Obama waited to call until Meyer's lunch break because the 23-year-old worried about taking a call on the job.
In a defamation lawsuit filed in Texas, Meyer alleges that his former employer, BAE Systems OASYS Inc., ruined his chances at landing a new job by telling a prospective employer that he was a poor worker during a three-month stint earlier this year.
A BAE Systems manager said Meyer "was mentally unstable, that Sgt. Meyer was not performing BAE tasks assigned and that Sgt. Meyer had a problem related to drinking in a social setting," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, seeks unspecified damages.
BAE Systems spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the company was grateful to Meyer for his bravery but strongly disagreed with his claims. He called Meyer's actions in Afghanistan "heroic" and wished him success.
Attorneys for Meyer did not return a phone message Tuesday.
Meyer was working construction in his home state of Kentucky when he was awarded the Medal of Honor. In September 2009, Meyer was just 21 when, defying orders from his commanders, he charged five times in a Humvee into heavy gunfire and provided cover for his team, allowing many to escape likely death. He killed at least eight Taliban insurgents.
According to the lawsuit filed Monday, BAE hired Meyer in March but the relationship quickly soured. Meyer said he became dismayed in April upon learning that BAE had pursued sales of weapons systems to Pakistan, and sent an email to his supervisor expressing his disapproval.
Meyer wrote that it was "disturbing" how U.S. troops were being issued outdated equipment when better, advanced thermal optic scopes were being offered to Pakistan.
"We are simply taking the best gear, the best technology on the market to date and giving to guys that are known to stab us in the back," Meyer wrote in the email, according to the lawsuit.
Roehrkasse, the BAE spokesman, said it is the State Department and not BAE that makes the decision on which defense-related products can be exported.
"In recent years, the U.S. government has approved the export of defense-related goods from numerous defense companies to Pakistan as part of the United States' bilateral relationship with that country," Roehrkasse said.
Meyer claims his supervisor began berating and belittling him after sending the email, at one point allegedly taunting him about his Medal of Honor by calling it Meyer's "pending star status." That supervisor, Bobby McCreight, is also named in the lawsuit and is still employed by BAE. Roehrkasse said McCreight is a former decorated Marine sniper.
Meyer resigned from BAE in May. He then tried obtaining a job at a former employer, San Diego-based Ausgar Technologies, but the lawsuit claims the opportunity fell through after McCreight characterized Meyer as a poor employee during a conversation with a manager who had to approve new hires.
"Bottom line, it was determined that ... you were not recommended to be placed back on the team due to being mentally unstable and no performing on OASYS tasks assigned," according to an email from an Ausgar manager included in the lawsuit.
Valerie Ellis, an administrator at Ausgar, said the company had no comment when reached Tuesday.