Washington, DC, United States (4E) – President Barack Obama on Tuesday awarded the Medal of Honor to Army Capt. William Swenson for saving fellow American troops during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan in 2009.
Swenson, 34, of Seattle, became the second soldier who figured in the Ganjgal battle to receive the highest U.S. military honor. Former Marine Corps Cpl. Dakota Meyer accepted the same medal in 2011.
Swenson dedicated the medal to the families of his killed comrades during a brief remark after the awarding ceremony held in the White House. Among the 200 guests in attendance were Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, First Lady Michelle Obama and other medal recipients and their families. Also present in the ceremony were Marines Ademola Fabayo and Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, who helped Swenson and Meyer in the rescue missions in the Ganjgal battle. The two received the Navy Cross for their actions.
During the ceremony, an Army video footage of Swenson kissing the head of a severely wounded comrade being loaded into a helicopter was shown. Obama described the unexpected act as Swenson’s compassionate side and demonstration of his loyalty to a brother in arms.
The Ganjgal battle occurred on Sept. 8, 2009. Eleven U.S. soldiers and 90 Afghan troops were going to meet town elders in Kunar province when Taliban fighters ambushed them. Five American and 10 Afghan soldiers were killed. An Afghan interpreter also died in the ambush.
Swenson called for artillery and air support while returning fire to the enemies surrounding them and helping wounded soldiers. Swenson also recovered the dead and wounded in the six-hour battle.
Swenson resigned from the Army in February 2011 and lives in Seattle. His recognition was delayed because Army officials said his nomination packet in the computer system got lost and found only after 19 months. He has applied to return to service, according to Army spokesman George Wright.