Story by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kayla Jo Finley, Defense Media Activity
The first Army officer from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor was inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, Oct. 16, just one day after receiving the nation’s highest military honor.
Former Army Capt. William D. Swenson was presented the Medal of Honor for his conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, Sept. 8, 2009, during combat operations against Taliban insurgents in Kunar province, Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Raymond T. Odierno inducted Swenson, adding Swenson’s name to the list of Medal of Honor recipients featured in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.
“Capt. Swenson today joins a rare fraternity of military service members who have displayed extraordinary acts of valor during exceptional circumstances with great risk to their own personal safety,” said Odierno.
For his final tour in Afghanistan, Swenson served as an embedded advisor with the Afghan Border Police Mentor Team in support of 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. He was tasked with mentoring members of the Afghan National Security Forces.
It was during his final tour that Swenson would risk his own life to save the lives of more than a dozen fellow comrades during the Battle of Ganjgal in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
On Sept. 8, 2008, Swenson and his team set out to conduct Operation Buri Booza II (Dancing Goat II) in the valley of Ganjal Gar which as along the volatile Pakistan border. The purpose of the operation was to engage the elders in the lower Ganjgal Valley. During the operation, Swenson and his team were ambushed by more than 60 insurgent fighters.
After six hours of continuous fighting, Swenson rallied his teammates and effectively disrupted the enemy assault.
Five Americans and nine Afghans died due to wounds sustained during the battle. Swenson is the second person to receive the Medal of Honor from the battle.
This is a time of mixed emotions, McHugh said. “A time when we pay tribute to uncommon valor, but at the same time we mourn and remember the horrible loss of comrades and friends.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pointed out that Swenson proved his heroism over and over again that day and evinced the steadfast nature of his character even after the battle, noting that his biggest contribution to the nation will most likely come later as a role model for generations to come.
“Capt. Swenson embodies the essence of a soldier and represents what every man and woman who dons this uniform strives to be,” said Odierno.
Swenson is the sixth living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He currently resides in Seattle and is seeking to return to active duty.
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