The military made amends with a war hero this week in a ceremony that honored his courage on and off the battlefield.
After four long years, President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army Capt. William Swenson at a White House ceremony.
Swenson braved rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and machine-gun fire to help his fallen comrades during an ambush in Afghanistan in 2009. He helped evacuate wounded Afghan soldiers and fallen Americans. Five Americans, 10 Afghan troops and an interpreter were killed. A moving video of his efforts to evacuate a wounded soldier can be seen on YouTube.
The fact it took four years to award the medal is a shame.
Another soldier caught in the firefight, Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, received the Medal of Honor two years ago for his actions.
But Swenson’s paperwork to receive the nation’s highest military honor was “lost” by the military after Swenson complained about a delayed response to his calls for air support. An investigation into those complaints led to reprimands for two Army officers for “contributing directly to the loss of life.”
The “lost” paperwork to honor Swenson is thought to be payback for his criticism of superior officers. But the efforts of a reporter who witnessed the firefight, and the prodding of Riverview resident Susan Price, who is the mother of a soldier killed during the firefight, resulted this week in an apology from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Medal of Honor being slipped around Swenson’s neck.
“Even after the battle, Will was not afraid to point out deficiencies in the operation that caused difficulties in obtaining the appropriate and timely support necessary,” Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno said.
“He recognized the importance of assessing performance and had the character to stick to his convictions.”
Bucking the chain of command in the military rarely results in a medal. The military is to be commended for recognizing its failings and doing the right thing.
Swenson appears to harbor no bitter feelings. He is asking for permission to return to active duty.
His request is expected to be approved.