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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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 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.

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