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Medal of Honor recipient from Seattle

Former Army Capt. William D. Swenson of Seattle was awarded the Medal of Honor for his efforts helping Afghanistan forces during a battle against the Taliban in the Ganjgal Valley.

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By Becca Clemons

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel apologized Wednesday to retired Army Capt. William Swenson, the most recent Medal of Honor recipient, for mistakes that delayed Swenson’s award.

swensonHagel said mistakes were made in losing Swenson’s nomination and that the Army had corrected its error. Hagel spoke during a ceremony at the Pentagon inducting Swenson into the Hall of Heroes, a day after Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama at the White House for his selfless actions during the Battle of Ganjgal in Afghanistan on Sept. 8, 2009.

“We’re sorry that you and your family had to endure through that, but you did and you handled it right,” Hagel said. “And I think that deserves a tremendous amount of attention and credit.”

The Army has said that the error was because of a turnover in personnel, though critics say it had more to do with the controversy Swenson created when he complained to military leaders after the battle was over that many of his calls for help had been rejected by superior officers. The Army conducted an investigation, and two Army officers were reprimanded.

Hagel on Thursday noted Swenson’s courage in questioning leaders’ decisions.

“He questioned – he dared to question the institution that he was faithful to and loyal to,” Hagel said. “Mistakes were made, in his case. Now, that’s courage and that’s integrity and that’s character.”

The secretary of the Army, John McHugh, issued a directive Wednesday that requires all future Medal of Honor nominations be sent immediately to the Army Human Resources Command.

“As soon as an honors packet is created at battalion level, we will have immediate visibility at Army headquarters,” McHugh said during his remarks at Thursday’s ceremony.

“Our heroes have always taught us many things, and that’s true here, today,” he added. “Sometimes our heroes teach us how to make ourselves better. And Will, for that as well, I – we all – want to thank you.”

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.

Local News
10/15/13

VIDEO: Medal of Honor recipient from Seattle

SEATTLE — A retired Army captain from Seattle was awarded the Medal of Honor – the nation’s highest military honor – at a ceremony at the White House Tuesday.

Capt. William Swenson was working with an Afghan border police mentor team in 2009 when his unit was ambushed. When the enemy started to attack from three sides, Swenson risked his own life to save fellow troops and recover their bodies during the seven-hour siege.

Watch the video report.

medal of honorWASHINGTON  — It will be just the sixth time in history that a living recipient will be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.  On Oct. 15, Seattle resident William Swenson will get the medal for his courageous actions during combat in Afghanistan in September 2009.

Former Army Capt. Swenson will join President Barack Obama at the White House to receive the medal.  He already has a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart,   He left the Army in 2011.

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