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Former Army Capt. William Swenson to receive Medal of Honor at White House

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  • Former Army Capt. William Swenson to receive Medal of Honor at White House

    It was a tender moment that demonstrates the brotherhood of the U.S. servicemen who fought for their lives in a remote Afghanistan province four years ago. But former Army Capt. William Swenson said he does not recall the brief kiss he laid on the head of his severely wounded partner that day. The video, recorded on the shaky helmet camera of a Medevac crewman, captured the kiss without the soldiers’ knowledge. There is Swenson, helping Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook into the rescue helicopter, two hours into a firefight against heavily armed Taliban insurgents in the Ganjgal valley and after Westbrook was shot through the mouth and shoulder. Wearing wrap-around sunglasses but no helmet, Swenson kisses the top of Westbrook’s head and pats him on the shoulder before returning to the battle.

    Swenson, 34, of Seattle, is credited with risking his life to help save his comrades and Afghan allies and retrieve the bodies of four Americans who were killed during the seven-hour battle on Sept. 8, 2009. He will accept the Medal of Honor from President Obama before 250 guests at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, the first Army officer to receive the U.S. military’s highest valor award since the Vietnam war.
    “You could have told me it happened, and I wouldn’t have believed you,” Swenson said in one of his first extended interviews since the battle. “But it did, and it was captured on film. And it offered a glimpse of the humanity that does occur on battlefields.”
    Swenson’s path to the White House ceremony has been a rocky one, as The Washington Post reported Sunday. After he criticized his Army superiors for failing to provide enough air and artillery support, his award nomination was delayed for years. At times, it seemed like he would never receive it.
    During the interview with the Post, Swenson said he would accept the medal in honor of the fellow soldiers and Marines with whom he fought, many of whom will be at the ceremony, along with family members of those who died.
    “It does not really belong to me, it belongs to that event and the people I stood with,” he said of the medal. “I’ll be thinking of everyone in that valley who gave more than could be expected of anybody.”
    Washington Post
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.