Slideshow: Former Fort Drum soldier awarded Medal of Honor

A former Fort Drum soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama on Tuesday afternoon.
Updated: 3:30 p.m., Tue., Oct. 15

Slideshow: Photos of Captain William Swenson

Washington, D.C. (WSYR-TV) - A former Fort Drum soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama on Tuesday afternoon.

Retired Army Captain William Swenson and his family met Obama in honor of his courageous actions while serving as an Embedded Trainer and Mentor of the Afghan National Security Forces during combat operations in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on Sept. 8, 2009.

Swenson and more than 100 US and Afghan troops were ambushed in one of the most brutal fire fights of the Afghan War.

When the enemy opened fire from three sides, Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook was shot in the throat and laying out in the open.

"He called out to me and said, ‘I’m hit’ and he wasn't panicked. There was no indication of pain. I said, ‘Okay, hold on. I can't get to you I am pinned down, keep fighting," Swenson said.

Swenson ran across open ground, dodging enemy fire to rescue Sgt. Westbrook.

In order for the helicopter to find his unit and rescue the wounded soldier, Swenson flashed an orange panel, guiding the Medivac Helo, but also making himself a target to the enemy.

Swenson and a medic were able to help Sgt. Westbrook to the Helo. Determined to get everyone out, Swenson went back into the battle with others still under fire to find and bring out the bodies of dead American and Afghan fighters.

Sgt. Westbrook died a few weeks later.

Swenson is just the sixth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afhanistan.

Captain Swenson completed Officer Candidate School on Sept. 6, 2002.

His actions on Sept. 8, 2009 were performed as part of 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division.

His military decorations include:
  • Bronze Star Medal with Two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Purple Heart
  • Army Commendation Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Afghanistan Campaign Medal with One Campaign Star
  • Iraq Campaign Medal with Two Campaign Stars
  • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  • Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon
  • Combat Infantryman Badge
  • Ranger Tab
  • Parachutist Badge
Swenson separated from the Army on Feb. 1, 2011 and currently resides in Seattle, Washington.

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