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Army Captain William D. Swenson received the highest military award America has to offer on Tuesday at the White House.
Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor for risking his own life in order to save American and Afghani troops and retrieve the bodies of fallen soldiers. Five Americans, ten Afghani troops, and one interpreter died in what was one of the most deadly firefights in Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press.
Swenson claimed that his superior officers rejected his requests for help on that day. His complaint led to an investigation, after which two army officers were reprimanded for being “inadequate and ineffective.”
The 34-year old was nominated for the Medal of Honor in 2009, but his paperwork was reportedly lost in a computer system and not resubmitted until 2011.
During the ceremony that recognized Swenson for his acts of bravery, President Barack Obama recognized him for his compassion as well: “Amidst the whipping wind and the deafening roar of the helicopter blades, he does something unexpected. He leans in and kisses the wounded soldier on the head — a simple act of compassion and loyalty to a brother in arms.”
According to The Washington Post, Swenson hopes to honor fellow soldiers with his acceptance of the medal. He stated, ““It does not really belong to me; it belongs to that event and the people I stood with.”
Swenson now has the Medal of Honor, a Purple Heart, and a Bronze Star Medal, making him the most decorated army officer since the Vietnam War, according to Time.
Swenson left the military in 2011, but has since asked to return to active duty. His request is being reviewed.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons