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.

MacDill Veterans Day Ceremony Honors the New Generation

A unit from MacDill Air Force Base's 6th Air Mobility Wing presents the colors at a ceremony honoring Veterans and active-duty military personnel.

Men and women serving at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base honored veterans at a ceremony Tuesday. It’s a couple of days early so that the military members can attend community Veterans Day events.

Standing at attention looking east into the morning sun, members of the 6th Air Mobility Wing saluted as the National Anthem played and the colors were presented. There was a simple prayer and then reading of Medal of Honor citations for recipients representing each of the services; Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Marine Corps.

A Marine gunnery sergeant read the citation honoring Cpl. Dakota Meyer. In September 2011, Meyer received the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of more than three dozen U.S. and Afghan forces during a six-hour fire-fight in Afghanistan, but Meyer was unable to save his buddies, three Marines, a Navy Corpsman and an Army soldier. Marine Cpl. Meyer is part of a new generation of veterans.

Col. Dave Almand, vice commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, gave remarks during the Veterans Day ceremony.

Many usually equate Veterans Day with WWII veterans also known as the Greatest Generation, but Col. Dave Almand, vice commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, called the Afghanistan and Iraq veterans the next great generation.

“As a military commander, (I’m) most appreciative of this younger generation,” Almand said after the 30 minute ceremony. “Those who have volunteered to serve after 9-11.”

U.S. troops are scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, but about 100,000 U.S. military forces are currently serving in Afghanistan.

Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyer on 60 Minutes

Susan Price, mother of fallen Marine GySgt. Aaron Kenefick.

One of Dakota Meyer’s biggest supporters is Susan Price, mother of Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, who is one of the Marines Dakota tried to save during the Ganjgal Valley Ambush, Sept. 8, 2009.

It’s been a big week for Susan who helped organize a Tampa ceremony honoring Dakota and remembering her son on Thursday.

She spent Sunday night with friends watching the 60 Minutes story. Susan and the wife of another of the fallen were interviewed about their efforts over the past two years to have the ambush investigated because air and artillery support were delayed during the six-hour fire fight. She emailed me the comments afterward.

A “Hometown” Medal of Honor Ceremony for Dakota Meyer

Tampa's ceremony to remember fallen Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick and celebrate Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Dakota Meyer.

Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer received the Medal of Honor Thursday for saving the lives of more than three dozen U.S. and Afghan forces. Yet, during that six-hour fire-fight he was unable to save his buddies – three Marines – a Navy Corpsman and an Army soldier.

Meyer wrote a letter to the families of the fallen asking them to hold ceremonies in their hometowns rather than attend the Medal of Honor ceremony in Washington D.C.

A majority of those who attended were veterans.

One of those hometown events took place outside under a bright Florida sun at Tampa’s Patriot Corner, Bayshore and Bay to Bay boulevards.Dozens of veterans, active duty military and citizens, most held an American flag. They lined Tampa’s heavily traveled, scenic road that curves along the bay from MacDill Air Force Base to downtown.

They were there to honor Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick – one of five teammates that Sgt. Dakota Meyer tried to save.

Kenefick’s mother, Susan Price, helped arrange the ceremony to celebrate the heroic efforts of Sgt. Dakota Meyer and to remember her son.

“Dakota is a special breed of human being and part of him died that day he was on the other side of the radio listening to two hours of calls for help,” Price said.

A rifle volley, a poem, a prayer, the unveiling of a portrait of Kenefick and the release of a butterfly were all part the ceremony.

A portrait of Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick by Greg Crumbly, also a veteran, who does commemorative portraits of fallen warriors and presents the works to their families for free.

Medal of Honor Tampa Ceremony Honors Fallen Marine

Gunnery Sgt Aaron Michael Kenefick, USMC KIA Kunar Province, Afghanistan 9-8-09. Photo courtesy of Susan Price.

At the same time that Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer is presented the Medal of Honor by Pres. Obama, USMC Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick will be remembered at a Tampa ceremony Thursday at noon on Patriots’ Corner, Bayshore and Bay to Bay boulevards.

Kenefick’s mother, Susan Price of Riverview, is one of the organizers of the side  ceremony. She said she’s responding to Meyer’s request.

She also shared these words written by her son, one of the five fallen during the ambush and six-hour fire fight in Kunar Province Afghanistan. Although five were killed, Sgt. Meyer is credited with saving dozens of U.S. and Afghan soldiers.

Words by   Aaron Michael Kenefick, Gunnery Sgt, USMC

KIA Kunar Province, Afghanistan, September 8th, 2009

“I’m a laid back guy who try’s not to take himself too seriously.  I’ve experienced many things in life, both good and bad and I have to say, it’s made me the strong man that I am today.  I cherish my friends and family more then anything in this world as they have always been there for me through the good times and the bad times.  I’ve been all over the world, pick a place and I’ve probably been there but my days of traveling are far from over.

                         I have a competitive spirit and I am driven, my ambitions which includes first and foremost, happiness and whatever that encompasses.   I’m not afraid to take chances or risks.  No risk no reward but I do understand that for every action there is a consequence.”

             

Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyer: Honor the Fallen

Sgt. Dakota Meyer (Ret.) Photo courtesy of the USO website.

Two years ago today – Sept. 8, 2009 – there was a fierce battle in a valley south of Ganigal Village, Kunar Province Afghanistan. A Marine Embedded Training Team and Afghan soldiers were ambushed and pinned down in a fire fight with Taliban insurgents. It  lasted six hours.

Marine Sgt. (then Cpl.) Dakota Meyer will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions that day that saved the lives 13 Marines and 23 Afghan soldiers. He made several trips into the valley to retrieve wounded, help the troops break out and then went back for his missing and fallen teammates. And it is they who Meyer wants to honor.

One of the fallen was Gunnery Sgt. Aaron M. Kenefick, USMC whose mother Susan Price lives in Riverview. She is honoring the wishes of Meyer, that ceremonies be held honoring the five fallen warriors in their home communities at the same  he is awarded the Medal of Honor from President Barak Obama.

  • Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, 31
  • Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30
  • 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25
  • Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton, 22.
  • U.S. soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, 41, died Oct. 7, 2009, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington from medical complications related to wounds sustained in the attack.

Sgt. Meyer wears wristbands engraved with the names of the fallen. Photo courtesy of the USO.

Sgt. Dakota Meyer is scheduled to receive the Medal of Honor a week from today – Thursday – Sept. 15 at noon.

Also at noon that day, a service will be held in Tampa at the corner of Bayshore Blvd. and Bay to Bay Blvd – also known as Patriots Corner. A chaplain will open the ceremony, some military representatives are set to speak, and the American Ideals Foundation Military Heroes Project will present a portrait and read a poem in tribute to GySgt. Kenefick.

Here is a portion of a letter written by Susan Price, Kenefick’s mom:

Dear Friends,

As you know that the death of my son, Fallen American Hero, Gunnery Sgt Aaron Michael Kenefick, USMC, is tied into the next Medal of Honor award to be presented to Dakota Meyer, USMC by President OBama on Thursday September 15th 2011, as Dakota rescued the fallen body’s of our heroes and allowed for us families to lay our loved ones at rest at home where they belong…. Per Dakota Meyer’s request, he is asking that we all gather together in honor and respect of our fallen in the in the communities in which our brave men last lived or are laid to rest, as Dakota receives his award he is doing so in the names of these 5 men, not for himself.

He has asked that the Patriot Guard Riders as well as the Media and Military Speakers come forth to participate in this first time in 41 years that a Marine receives such a high and outstanding military award on behalf of the brave men who lost their lives in the Ganjgal Ambush, Kunar Province Afghanistan, September 8th 2009.

Dakota wants the world to know that it is because of our fallen that he receives this medal for them not himself and wants communities to be fully aware of the Ganjgal valley tragedy!

You can read and view of Meyer’s first interviews about being named for the Medal of Honor with the Marine Corps Times.

In this second Marine Corps Times interview, Meyer describes his actions that day.

Dakota Meyer, A Marine to Receive Medal of Honor

Then-Marine Corps Cpl. Dakota Meyer poses for a photo while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. Meyer will receive the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama on Sept. 15, 2011, making him the first living Marine recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor in combat since the Vietnam War. Meyer was assigned to Embedded Training Team 2-8 advising the Afghan army in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces bordering Pakistan. Courtesy photo

The following is an account of Dakota Meyer’s actions in a remote Afghan village on Sept. 8, 2009:

“Though bleeding from shrapnel wounds in his right arm, Meyer, aided by fellow Marines and Army advisors from Embedded Training Team 2-8, braved a vicious hail of enemy machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire in the village of Ganjgal to help rescue and evacuate more than 15 wounded Afghan soldiers and recover the bodies of four fallen fighters – 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, Gunnery Sgts. Aaron Kenefick and Edwin Johnson Jr., and Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Layton.

ETT advisor Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Oct. 7, 2009, from wounds suffered in the firefight.

Meyer charged through the battle zone five times to recover the dead Marines and injured Afghan soldiers, risking his life even when a medical evacuation helicopter wouldn’t land because of the blazing gunfire.

“There’s not a day – not a second that goes by where I don’t think about what happened that day,” Meyer said. “I didn’t just lose four Marines that day; I lost four brothers.”

Read the full American Forces Press Service article HERE.

The Marine Corps “story behind the Marine” is available HERE.

The following is from a White House news release announcing the award:

A former Marine Corps corporal will receive the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama here Sept. 15 for conspicuous gallantry almost two years ago in Afghanistan, White House officials announced today.

Dakota Meyer will be the third living recipient – and first Marine – to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Meyer is receiving the nation’s highest military honor for actions Sept. 8, 2009, while he was serving with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

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