WASHINGTON — Family members of US war dead from a disastrous Afghan mission -- from which a young Marine got the highest US military decoration -- called Sunday for senior officers to be court-martialed.
Former marine sergeant Dakota Meyer, 23, defied orders and repeatedly drove into a village despite a Taliban firestorm to rescue Afghan troops and their American trainers after the deadly ambush in northeastern Afghanistan. He was commended with the Medal of Honor on Thursday by President Barack Obama.
But in interviews with CBS's "60 Minutes" program, the wife and mother of two slain US soldiers said officers who failed to respond with air support during the operation should be handed the severest reprimand.
Charlene Westbrook's husband Kenneth died at the Walter Reed military hospital in Washington following the operation, but she told CBS he lived long enough to tell her what happened.
"He told me that 'we were surrounded, we were ambushed and we called for help. No one came. They kept telling us '15 minutes, 15 minutes' and no one showed and we were just sitting ducks,'" she said.
Two unnamed officers, a captain and a major, were given letters of reprimand for failures that emerged from an army investigation.
"These letters of reprimand are just clearly slaps on the wrist. These officers need to be court-martialed," Westbrook said.
On Thursday, Obama recalled how Meyer braved machine gunfire, bullets, grenades and mortars, and loaded up injured and trapped Afghans into his vehicle and took them to safety, returning to the line of fire no less than five times.
On his last journey into the inferno in the battle in September 2009, he found four fallen US comrades.
"In Sergeant Dakota Meyer, we see the best of a generation that has served with distinction through a decade in war," Obama said.
Meyer, a corporal at the time of the action, was wounded in the arm by shrapnel. He says he considers himself a failure as four of his marine comrades were killed in the ambush.
"It would have been extraordinary if I'd brought them out alive. That would have been extraordinary," he told CBS.
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