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Medal of Honor recipient returns to active duty

Apr. 9, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Capt. William Swenson left the Army in 2011 but rejoined last month.
Capt. William Swenson left the Army in 2011 but rejoined last month. (Army)
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President Obama presents Capt. Will Swenson with the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 15. (Mike Morones / Staff)

Medal of Honor recipient Capt. William Swenson is back on active duty.

Swenson, who originally left the Army in 2011, is assigned to I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., corps spokesman Col. David Johnson confirmed to Army Times.

Swenson returned to active duty last month, signing in to I Corps on March 14. He is serving as a plans officer at I Corps headquarters.

He did not immediately respond to an interview request.

Swenson received the nation’s highest award for valor during a White House ceremony Oct. 15 for actions during a deadly 2009 battle in Afghanistan.

Five American service members, nine Afghan troops and an Afghan interpreter died in the Sept. 8, 2009, battle in Ganjgal, a mountainside village in Kunar province. More than a dozen other troops also were wounded when more than 60 well-armed insurgents ambushed the American-Afghan patrol.

The battle also was plagued by a lack of timely fire support and aviation assistance, even as those on the ground pleaded for it.

On that day, Swenson was an embedded trainer working with an Afghan Border Police mentor team. He is credited with repeatedly braving enemy fire to help U.S. forces get out of a kill zone and helping to find and recover the bodies of the four military advisers killed in the ambush.

Swenson received the Medal of Honor after a long delay caused by the Army losing his nomination paperwork.

Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer received the Medal of Honor two years earlier for his actions in the same battle.

Last October, as the Army prepared for Swenson’s Medal of Honor ceremony, the Associated Press reported that Swenson had asked to return to active duty.

Now that he’s back in uniform, Swenson joins Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry and Staff Sgt. Ty Carter as the only Medal of Honor recipients honored for actions in Afghanistan who are still on active duty — and they are all stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Three Marines and a sailor were killed in the 2009 battle: Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, 31; Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30; 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25; and Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton, 22. They were separated from their team when insurgents launched the ambush and were eventually cut down by gunfire.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, 41, died a month later due to medical complications from a gunshot wound he sustained.

In a brief statement to reporters outside the White House after the Medal of Honor ceremony, Swenson said his award was earned as part of a team that included the fallen service members and their families.

“Today, I stand with the Medal of Honor,” he said. “But this award was earned with a team. A team of our finest: Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy and our Afghan partners, standing side by side. And now, that team includes Gold Star families who lost their fathers, sons and husbands that day. This medal represents them. It represents us.”

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