Valor

Medal of Honor: A portrait of valor beyond the call of duty

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Army, Courage, Government, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, U.S. Constitution, Valor, War, Weapons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Medal of Honor: A portrait of valor beyond the call of duty 

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Captain_Swenson_Medal_of_Honor

President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Captain William D. Swenson, veteran of the War of Terror at White House ceremony on Oct. 15. Credit: AP

In a ceremony at the White House on Oct. 15, President Barack Obama awarded Captain William D. Swenson the nation’s highest military honor for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Captain Swenson was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, as an adviser to the Afghan Border Police Mentor Team on Sept.8, 2009, when both Afghan soldiers and their American military trainers were ambushed near the village of Ganjgal in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, by more than 50 Taliban fighters.

The official citation for the award reads in part: “Surrounded on three sides by enemy forces inflicting effective and accurate fire, Captain Swenson coordinated air assets, indirect fire support and medical evacuation helicopter support to allow for the evacuation of the wounded. Captain Swenson ignored enemy radio transmissions demanding surrender and maneuvered uncovered to render medical aid to a wounded fellow soldier. Captain Swenson stopped administering aid long enough to throw a grenade at approaching enemy forces, before assisting with moving the soldier for air evacuation.”

“With complete disregard for his own safety, Captain Swenson unhesitatingly led a team in an unarmored vehicle into the kill zone, exposing himself to enemy fire on at least two occasions, to recover the wounded and search for four missing comrades. After using aviation support to mark locations of fallen and wounded comrades, it became clear that ground recovery of the fallen was required due to heavy enemy fire on helicopter landing zones. Captain Swenson’s team returned to the kill zone another time in a Humvee. Captain Swenson voluntarily exited the vehicle, exposing himself to enemy fire, to locate and recover three fallen Marines and one fallen Navy corpsman.”

Swenson is the sixth living person awarded the Medal Honor for valor in the Iraq and Afghanistan war, according to the Defense Department.

Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor by Obama in 2011 for rescuing troops that same day and recovering the remains of four Americans killed in the battle of Ganjgal and served beside Captain Swenson. Meyer in his book, “Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War” said he would not be alive today if it was not for the actions of Captain Swenson and advocated that Swenson should receive the Medal of Honor.

Swenson was outspoken and critical of his superiors for not receiving timely air and artillery support. An investigation subsequently led to three Army officers being reprimanded. Swenson’s Medal of Honor was delayed when the paperwork for the award was lost.

Swenson helped rescue and deliver to the medevac helicopter Sgt. Kenneth W. Westbrook, 41, of Shiprock, N.M. who later died from complications from his wounds in the United States. This small part of the battle was captured in a video on YouTube titled “Army Capt. William Swenson Receives Medal of Honor.”

Gone but not forgotten are the four Americans killed in the ambush: 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25, of Virginia Beach, Staff Sgt. Aaron Keneflick, 30 of Roswell, Ga., Corpsman James Layton, 22 of Riverbank, Calif., and Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Wayne Johnson Jr., 31, of Columbus, Ga. Also killed that day were 10 Afghan troops and an interpreter.

Swenson left the Army in February 2011 but has asked to return and is waiting for a decision by the Army.

After the ceremony, Swenson standing in front of the West Wing, said, “Today, I stand with the Medal of Honor…but this award is earned with a team, a team of our finest, Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy and our Afghan partners, standing side by side. This medal represents them, represents us.”

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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