WASHINGTON — A former Army captain was awarded the nation’s highest military honor Tuesday for his bravery, caught on video, during one of the deadliest battles in Afghanistan at a somber, sometimes emotional, White House ceremony.
President Barack Obama bestowed the Medal of Honor on former Army Capt. William Swenson for his actions during a deadly six-hour battle in Afghanistan in 2009. The battle has been the source of controversy for years in part because Swenson failed to receive the air and artillery support he had requested.
Obama praised Swenson in brief remarks in the ornate East Room before fastening the light blue Medal of Honor ribbon around his neck. As Obama spoke about the battle’s victims, Swenson struggled to compose himself, and a single tear rolled down his cheek.
“Moments like this, Americans like Will remind us of what our country can be at its best — a nation of citizens who look out for one another, who meet our obligations to one another not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard. Maybe especially when it’s hard,” Obama said.
Swenson, 34, resigned from the Army in February 2011. He lives a quiet life near the Puget Sound in the Seattle area, where he is unemployed. He has asked to return to the Army, and his request is expected to be approved.
Swenson said later that “this award is earned with a team, a team of our finest.”