Former Army Captain Will Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor this week at the White House but many are demanding to know: What took so long?!
Swenson was awarded the honor after displaying incredible valor during the battle of Battle of Ganjgal, a Sept. 8, 2009. His heroics emerged in vivid detail recently when a video of him running in and out of the line of fire to retrive men left behind. It was one of the most intense firefights of the entire war.
Rumors have been swirling since 2011 when reports emerged that his nomination was “lost” in Afghanistan. Many thought the nomination was stalled intenionally after Swenson blasted his senior officers during an investigation into what went wrong in Ganjgal. He criticized their rules of engagemen and the leadership of officers.
While no answers have surfaced yet, the Army has pledged to review the nomination process.
Medal of Honor recipient Will Swenson was lauded Wednesday by senior defense officials as a role model who carried himself gracefully — even after the Army botched his initial nomination for the award following a brutal battle that killed five fellow service members.
Swenson, a former Army captain, was inducted into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes before about 200 friends, family members and fellow service members. The ceremony occurred one day after he received the Medal of Honor at the White House for his heroism in the Battle of Ganjgal, a Sept. 8, 2009, clash between insurgents and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
Swenson received the nation’s highest award for valor following rampant speculation that his initial nomination was stalled in Afghanistan because he blasted his senior officers during an investigation into what went wrong in Ganjgal. In an interview with investigators, he criticized their rules of engagement, the leadership of officers who didn’t promptly send help to troops under fire, and the second-guessing he experienced when requesting fire support, according to a copy of his witness statement.
Army officials said in 2011 that Swenson’s initial nomination for the award was lost at a headquarters unit in Afghanistan. It received new scrutiny from Marine Gen. John Allen, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, as the battle received extensive media coverage while a Medal of Honor nomination for another warrior in the same firefight, Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, made its way to President Obama. Meyer received the award in September 2011.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel apologized to Swenson and his family during the ceremony Wednesday for his initial nomination being lost.
Swenson is credited with braving enemy fire repeatedly while leading coalition forces out of a fierce ambush by more than 60 enemy fighters and caring for numerous U.S. and Afghan casualties in the process.
“We’re sorry that you and your family had to endure through that, but you did and you handled it right,” Hagel said. “And I think that deserves a tremendous amount of attention and credit. We celebrate you today, Will. We celebrate your family. We celebrate your very brave colleagues who have been recognized, those who didn’t make it back, their families today. But we celebrate all the good things about our country today because of you. And we’re grateful.”