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Seattle native awarded Medal of Honor for bravery in Afghan fight

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday awarded a former U.S. Army captain the Medal of Honor for his bravery in a fierce firefight in Afghanistan.

In a televised ceremony, the president awarded the nation’s highest military honor to William D. Swenson for his efforts helping Afghanistan forces during a battle against the Taliban in the Ganjgal Valley.

“You are a remarkable role model for all of us and we are very grateful for your service,” Obama said after securing the medal and blue-ribbon around Swenson’s neck.

swensonOn Sept. 8, 2009, Swenson was working as a trainer with the Afghan National Security Forces in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan. The fight claimed five American lives and 10 Afghan army troops along with an interpreter.

The Seattle native risked his life during the battle to help save troops, officials said.

Swenson complained to military leaders after the fight that many of his calls for help were rejected by superior officers. Eventually, two Army officers were reprimanded for “contributing directly to the loss of life.”

Four Americans died in the ambush: 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, a 25-year-old from Virginia Beach, Va.; Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30, of Roswell, Ga.; Corpsman James Layton, 22, of Riverbank, Calif.; and Edwin Wayne Johnson Jr., a 31-year-old gunnery sergeant from Columbus, Ga.

A fifth man, Army Sgt. Kenneth W. Westbrook, 41, of Shiprock, N.M., later died from his wounds.

Another man who fought in the battle, Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2011.

Swenson, 34, retired from the military in February 2011. He has a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

Swenson is the sixth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

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