Medal of Honor Recipient Saluted for Willingness to Question

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno unveils the Hall of Heroes plaque at an induction ceremony for Medal of Honor recipient former Army Capt. William Swenson at the Pentagon, Oct. 16, 2013. DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno unveils the Hall of Heroes plaque at an induction ceremony for Medal of Honor recipient former Army Capt. William Swenson at the Pentagon, Oct. 16, 2013. DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler

There was a delay of more than two years before former Army Capt. William Swenson was presented with the Medal of Honor even though Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer received his Medal of Honor in 2011 for the same battle.

Some attribute the delay – officially blamed on “lost paperwork” – to Swenson questioning why his many calls for help during the 7-hour battle were rejected by superior officers.

Secretary of Defense Chuck acknowledged in his speech Wednesday at the Hall of Heroes Ceremony that mistakes were made.

Yes, Will Swenson proved his valor on the battlefield.  It is well documented.  It should be well documented.  But he also did something else that represented tremendous courage and integrity.  And I’ve always thought the two indispensable elements of anyone’s life are courage and character.  And if we’re without those in some measure, it’s a pretty hallow existence.

He questioned — he dared to question the institution that he was faithful to and loyal to.  Mistakes were made, in his case.  Now, that’s courage and that’s integrity and that’s character.  As the institution itself reflected on that same courage and integrity institutionally, the institution, the United States Army, corrected the mistake.  They went back and acknowledged a mistake was made and they fixed it.

Another great dimension of our republic, of our people, we have an inherent capability to self-correct.

Hagel went on to state that the Army self-corrected its mistakes and he apologized to Swenson:

We’re sorry that you and your family had to endure through that, but you did and you handled it right.  And I think that deserves a tremendous amount of attention and credit.  We celebrate you today, Will.  We celebrate your family.  We celebrate your very brave colleagues who have been recognized, those who didn’t make it back, their families today.  But we celebrate all the good things about our country today because of you.  And we’re grateful.

Former Army Capt. William Swenson and President Barack Obama stand as the citation is read prior to the presentation of the Medal of Honor on Tuesday.

Former Army Capt. William Swenson and President Barack Obama stand as the citation is read prior to the presentation of the Medal of Honor on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of PBS News Hour web stream.

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