U.S. Army captain to get Medal of Honor for valor in Afghan ambush

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 15, 2013 5:03 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Retired U.S. Army Captain William Swenson, who rescued wounded soldiers under fire during a deadly Afghan ambush, is scheduled to receive the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. honor for valor, on Tuesday from President Barack Obama.

Swenson, 34, of Seattle, was part of a U.S. team training Afghan security forces when about 50 Taliban insurgents attacked it in September 2009 at Gangjal, a village in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province.

Swenson repeatedly charged into insurgent fire to rescue wounded U.S. and Afghan soldiers. Five Americans died in the seven-hour firefight or of wounds later, along with eight Afghan troops killed in action.

Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor in September 2011 for saving 36 of his comrades' lives during the ambush. The Columbia, Kentucky, native was the first living Marine since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor.

After the firefight, Swenson, of the 10th Mountain Division, criticized the lack of air and artillery support, and two officers received reprimands following an inquiry, the Marine Times reported in 2011.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that a rift existed between Swenson and Meyer, who has written a book about the battle, "Into the Fire" and has said he will run for Congress.

The Post said Swenson was skeptical of the attention Meyer, now 25, had received. He also has disputed the Marines' account of the fighting, saying it exaggerated Meyer's role, the newspaper said.

Meyer lobbied for Swenson to get the Medal of Honor and could not be immediately reached for comment. But Meyer on Monday retweeted a tweet by Marine Times reporter Dan Lamothe in which Meyer told him he hoped Swenson "finds peace."

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by David Gregorio)