President Obama bestowed the highest military honor to Afghan war veteran and former Army captain William D. Swenson Tuesday, recognizing his efforts to save Americans during a battle with Taliban insurgents along the Pakistan border in 2009.
The 34-year-old unemployed Seattle resident received the sky blue ribbon and medal for his service as a trainer and adviser embedded with the Afghan Border Police Mentor Team. The awardee risked his life evacuating wounded Afghan and American soldiers during an ambush by Taliban insurgents in the Ganjgal valley the morning of Sept. 8, 2009. Five Americans, 10 Afghan army troops and an interpreter perished in the fight.
Swenson was first nominated for the Medal of Honor in 2009, but the paperwork was lost and resubmitted in 2011. The captain’s criticism of a lack of help during the battle prompted an investigation that resulted in two Army officers being reprimanded. He is the second survivor from that battle to receive the prestigious medal, marking just the second time in 50 years for that to happen, according to Obama. Two years ago Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer received the Medal of Honor for the same conflict.
The Army captain left the military in February 2011 and has since been unemployed. Swenson hopes to return to service, a rare move for a Medal recipient. His request is currently under review.
He is the sixth living honoree of the highest military award for service in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the most decorated Army officer since the Vietnam War.