Army Captain to Be Sixth Living Medal of Honor Recipient

Army Capt. William Swenson looks out at the rough terrain of Eastern Afghanistan from a Black Hawk helicopter. Swenson will receive the Medal of Honor Tuesday for his actions in Afghanistan in 2009. Photo provided by the Army.

Army Capt. William Swenson looks out at the rough terrain of Eastern Afghanistan from a Black Hawk helicopter. Swenson will receive the Medal of Honor Tuesday for his actions in Afghanistan in 2009. Photo provided by the Army.

President Barack Obama is set to award the Medal of Honor today, Oct. 15, 2013 to former Army Capt. William Swenson for conspicuous gallantry during Sept. 8, 2009, combat operations in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

At the time, Swenson was an embedded trainer and mentor with the Afghan National Security Forces in Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. He risked his life to recover bodies and help save fellow troops according to a PBS report.

Swenson complained to military leaders after the fight that many of his calls for help were rejected by superior officers. Two Army officers were reprimanded for being “inadequate and ineffective” and for “contributing directly to the loss of life” following an investigation into the day’s events.

Four Americans died in the ambush: 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, a 25-year-old from Virginia Beach; 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.

Two years ago when Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer received the Medal of Honor for the same battle, Susan Price, the mother of Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick who died in the battle, was among those calling for Swenson to be recognized as well.

Initially, the military said the paperwork nominating Swenson for the medal was lost.

In a White House statement announcing the ceremony, officials said Swenson will be the sixth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the president at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.

Swenson separated from the Army on Feb. 1, 2011, and now lives in Seattle.

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