If you didn’t know by now, November marks the start of Military Family Appreciation Month. It should be fitting then that we all tip our caps to former Army Captain William D. Swenson as we transition into the month of November. It’s also fitting that we all turn our attention to some positive national news in light of the recent government shutdown debacle. So now you’re probably wondering who exactly is William D. Swenson? A Seattle native, Swenson was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration, for his involvement in the Battle of Ganjgal. Swenson was credited with sacrificing his very own life in order to rescue and recover the bodies of both American and Afghani troops in the line of enemy fire. It may be cliché, but if you look up badass in the dictionary, you should be able to find William D. Swenson somewhere in there. How come? Well I have a pretty strong case to make to Webster’s Dictionary on why they should stamp a photo of William D. Swenson under the definition of ‘badass’.
Battle of Ganjgal.
On September 8th, 2009, Swenson led an Embedded Training Team (ETT) that included Afghani soldiers, American soldiers, and the Afghan National Police to connect with local elders near a village outside of the Ganjgal valley on a peacekeeping mission. It was only moments until a group of heavily armed Taliban insurgents abruptly started to ambush Swenson’s team from all angles. In a flash, Swenson acted quickly and immediately retaliated in a warzone that was raining in a ‘barrage of rocket-propelled grenade, mortar, and machine gun fire’. The Battle of Ganjgal was officially underway as the firefight lasted for over 6 hours. Amidst all the mayhem and gun smoke in the air, an exposed Swenson still managed to scurry back to the kill zone multiple times to help rescue his comrades out of danger. A valiant effort such as that, exemplifies true determination and persistence. The battle of Ganjgal was believed to be one of the goriest and lengthiest of all battles in Afghanistan as it took the lives of 4 Americans, 10 Afghan soldiers, and an interpreter.
“In 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” – President Barack Obama
The magnitude of that event may seem too hard for some to believe, but here’s raw footage of Swenson right in the heat of the action taken from a helicopter pilot helmet cam. Here he is seen evacuating Sgt. 1st class Kenneth Westbrook into a helicopter.
William D. Swenson represents the courage, relentlessness, and patriotism that should embody all American soldiers. Swenson’s selfless and heroic actions on that very fateful day in Afghanistan has finally led him to be awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House on October 15th, 2013. The Medal of Honor adds on to Swenson’s growing list of accolades which also includes a Purple Heart. Swenson is currently the 6th living recipient from the War in Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor and the first Army officer to receive such an honor since the Vietnam War.
And just to add icing to the cake, Swenson has asked to return and reenlist back to the Army after retiring 2 years ago. I think we can all agree that this goes ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ by a long shot. Not many Medal of Honor recipients would go back into battle, but Swenson’s wish to return to service speaks volumes of his character. So here’s my salute to you William D. Swenson, for you sir, have been rightfully named the badass of the month.
‘Merica.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.