Obama presents Afghan war vet with Medal of Honor

ident Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to retired Army Captain William D. Swenson of Seattle, Wash., during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. Swenson is being awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in a lengthy battle against the Taliban in the Ganjgal valley near the Pakistan border on Sept. 8, 2009, which claimed the lives of five Americans, 10 Afghan army troops and an interpreter. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
October 16, 2013 2:39:07 AM PDT
Four years after risking his life in Afghanistan, William D. Swenson solemnly received the Medal of Honor on Tuesday in a case of battlefield bravery with some odd twists: The young Army captain questioned the judgment of his superiors, and the paperwork nominating him for the award was lost. He left the military two years ago but wants to return to active duty, a rare move for a medal recipient.

The nation's highest military honor - a sky blue ribbon and medal - was clasped around Swenson's neck by President Barack Obama at the White House. The president described how Swenson repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to recover fallen comrades and help save others during a battle against Taliban insurgents in the Ganjgal valley near the Pakistan border on Sept. 8, 2009. The fight claimed five Americans, 10 Afghan army troops and an interpreter.

Swenson is the second Medal of Honor recipient from that fight, just the second time in half a century that the medal has been awarded to two survivors of the same battle, Obama said. Two years ago, Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer for heroic actions in the 2009 fight.

Obama noted that although America's highest military honor has been bestowed nearly 3,500 times, never before had the public been able to see any of the bravery it was designed to recognize. Video taken by the medevac crew's helmet cameras shows Swenson delivering a severely wounded soldier to the helicopter and kissing him on the head before returning to the heat of battle.

"A simple act of compassion and loyalty to a brother in arms," Obama said at the East Room ceremony attended by Swenson's parents, Julia and Carl, along with Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and others.

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