Lt. Col. S. Lee Meyer was always on call for President Barack Obama during an 18-month assignment as the U.S. Marine Corps Military Aide to the President of the United States in 2012-13.
He was on call to his men and their assignment for the last 18 months as the Commanding Officer of HMLA-167, a Marine Light Attack Helicopter group of Super-Cobra attack helicopters and Venom utility helicopters.
But beginning last week, after relinquishing his command here, the Garner Senior High graduate answers to a new command.
“On Monday morning, I won’t set my alarm. I will work out. I’ll go home and have nothing to do until my wife tells me exactly what I have to do,” Meyer said with a chuckle at a reception after the changing of command.
Meyer doesn’t have his orders for the next stop in his military career, but hopes to attend one of the nation’s top military schools. He has reached the point in his career that the Marines will invest more in his leadership and his mind than in his physical prowess.
“At 43, I can’t do what some of these 18-year-olds can do,” said Meyer, who still looks like he just marched in from a Marine Corps recruiting poster.
He knew he would have 18 months at the helm of the HML-167 when he assumed command of the unit with the call sign “Warriors” in June 2014. He told his Marines and sailors that day that he wanted to be the leader that they needed and he hoped that he would be the leader that they deserved.
“Every single day, that was my goal,” Meyer said. “Looking back, it is like it was like playing (Garner high school) football. You want to leave everything you’ve got on the field. You don’t hold back. You do your best on every single day.
“I had too many Marines, too many friends, too much family counting on me to do anything less.”
Meyer was presented a Meritorious Service Medal at the change of command ceremony. The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, which played at Garner’s Salute to the Troops in May, set the tone for the event and interspersed the solemnness and formality of the occasion with a Darth Vader-style band selection from Star Wars. Meyer added his own warmth and sense of humor.
In his remarks after transferring the squadron’s colors, Meyer welcomed the assembled officers and enlisted men, family, friends and Bob, the meating-eating Savannah monitor that is the unit’s mascot.
Near the end of the ceremony, he was told, “Congratulations, Country. Job well done.”
He carried his squadron to Okinawa, the Philippines, Thailand and three times to California. He was the 2015 Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Award recipient for safety and he was credited with leading the Warriors to excellence in every endeavor.
His biggest goal, he said, was to create a culture where people wanted to come to work in the defense of their country. He did that in his own way.
He was training at Twenty-Nine Palms Marine base in California, the corps air ground combat center, when he took a Super-Cobra to a Marine infantry shooting range. He landed and talked to the men about the helicopter’s capabilities and what they could expect in close air support if they were in combat.
He knows firsthand about combat, having been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom I, II and IV and to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Soon after his visit to the Marine infantrymen, Meyer received a letter from a corporal who thanked the Lt. Colonel for the visit.
“I will never forget what you did that day … I pray that if I do ever find myself in combat that I have the call sign ‘Warriors’ above me, tearing into the enemy, providing close air support,” the 20-year Marine wrote.
“If ever we wonder if what we are doing makes a difference,” Meyer said, “remember this letter.”
Meyer allowed himself a moment of reflection just before the reception. He had reported to HMLA-167 for the first time in 2001. After another assignment, he returned in 2007 and after another assignment returned again in 2009. He came back again after serving in the White House.
“This place has a lot of memories for me,” he said, looking around the hanger. “I remember running around here as a young lieutenant. It means so much to me to have so many friends, and so much of my family to be here today. One of my old football coaches (Joe Wolfe) came and some Garner people came, too. It just means an awful lot to me.
“I don’t know what is ahead, but I do appreciate what is behind. I owe so much to so many people.”
Tim Stevens: email@example.com