Solder and Medal of Honor Winner Capt William SwensonPresident Obama yesterday presented the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Captain William Swenson for conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty.

Will’s commanding officers wrote, “In seven hours of continuous fighting, Swenson braved intense enemy fire, and willfully put his life in danger against the enemy’s main effort, multiple times in service of his fallen and wounded comrades… and his endangered Afghan partners.”

Before draping the medal around Swenson’s neck, Obama called him a remarkable example to the nation of the professionalism and patriotism that everyone should strive for.

“Captain Will Swenson was a leader on that September morning,” Obama said. “But like all great leaders, he was also a servant — to the men he commanded.”

The President’s remarks included a retelling of the story of Swenson’s actions in battle that day.

“I want to take you back to that September morning four years ago. It’s around sunrise. A column of Afghan soldiers and their American advisors are winding their way up a narrow trail towards a village to meet with elders. But just as the first soldier reaches the outskirts of the village, all hell breaks loose.

“Almost instantly, three Marines and a Navy corpsman at the front of the column are surrounded. Will and the soldiers in the center of the column are pinned down. Rocket-propelled grenade, mortar, and machine gun fire is pouring in from three sides.   

”As he returns fire, Will calls for air support. But his initial requests are denied – Will and his team are too close to the village. Then Will learns that his noncommissioned officer, Sergeant First Class Kenneth Westbrook, has been shot in the neck. So Will breaks across 50 meters of open space, bullets biting all around. Lying on his back, he presses a bandage to Kenneth’s wound with one hand and calls for a Medevac with the other, trying to keep his buddy calm.

“By this time, the enemy has gotten even closer – just 20 or 30 meters away. Over the radio, they’re demanding the Americans surrender. Will stops treating Kenneth long enough to respond – by lobbing a grenade.

“Finally, after more than an hour and a half of fighting, air support arrives. Will directs them to nearby targets. Then it’s time to move. Exposing himself again to enemy fire, Will helps carry Kenneth the length of more than two football fields, down steep terraces, to a waiting Medavac helicopter — where helmet cameras captured video of Will as he leans in and kisses the wounded soldier on the head – a simple act of compassion and loyalty to a brother in arms. And as the door closes and the helicopter takes off, he turns and goes back the way he came, back into the battle.

Obama presents Medal of Honor“But more Americans – and more Afghans – are still out there. So Will does something incredible. He jumps behind the wheel of an unarmored Ford Ranger pickup truck. A Marine gets in the passenger seat. And they drive that truck – a vehicle designed for the highway – straight into the battle.

“Twice, they pick up injured Afghan soldiers – bullets whizzing past them, slamming into the pickup truck. Twice they bring them back. When the truck gives out, they grab a Humvee. The Marine by Will’s side has no idea how they survived. But, he says, “by that time it didn’t matter. We [were] not leaving any soldiers behind.”

“Finally, a helicopter spots those four missing Americans – hours after they were trapped in the opening ambush. So Will gets in another Humvee, with a crew that includes Dakota Meyer. And together, they drive. Past enemy fighters. Up through the valley. Exposed once more.

“When they reach the village, Will jumps out – drawing even more fire, dodging even more bullets. But they reach those Americans, lying where they fell. Will and the others carry them out, one-by-one. They bring their fallen brothers home.”

Swenson’s education includes a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Seattle University. He served one tour in Iraq, two tours in Afghanistan and just recently reenlisted.