Soldier Awarded Medal Of Honor, And You Can Now See What He Did

Soldier Awarded Medal Of Honor, And You Can Now See What He Did
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Retired US Army Capt William Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor yesterday for his conduct during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2009. What makes Swenson’s actions even more remarkable than the fact he’s now only the sixth living recipient of the medal is the way cameras captured part of the action that earned him the medal.

What you’re watching up top is the Battle of Ganjgal, from which Swenson becomes the second soldier to be awarded the US military’s highest honour, after Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer.

Ambushed on his way to a meeting on September 9, 2009, Swenson raced into the open to rescue a wounded comrade, tossed a grenade at advancing enemy forces, then jumped in a couple of vehicles to drive around and rescue other casualties. Once he’d seen them off on a medical chopper, he returned to the fight for a further six hours.

The video above, captured by the chopper crew, shows Swenson dropping off one of those wounded, Sgt 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook (around 2:39), who he then kisses on the head. Westbrook would later die of his wounds.

The footage was actually released by Westbrook’s widow. Because Swenson was able to get him medical attention, he was kept alive long enough to be able to say “goodbye” to his wife.

Below you can read President Obama’s recount of the battle, which is just…wow.

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 [CORE-man] 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 that helicopter. And then, in the moment captured by those cameras, Will leans in to say goodbye.

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.

President Obama Awards the Medal of Honor to Captain William Swenson [White House, via Motherboard]


  • And I thought this was gonna be some soldier saying I learn this from CoD/Battlefield and looks like another gaming culture unrelated post. Since when did kotaku become politics site?

    • If you don’t like it, don’t read it – or even better, suppress the urge to tell everyone what you think should and shouldn’t be posted on this site. Some people might actually be interested in something like this. I know I was.

      • I’m sorry for having an opinion. I guess not everyone can see how bad has kotaku become. I’ll just bookmark mark’s articles instead and let you guys continue reading redditaku by plunkett

        • Can you see the sectional menu at the top? it says xbox, playstation, nintendo, pc, mobile, NEWS, in real life and retro.

          if you look carefully, this is under the NEWS section – maybe you should use that menu to only see the content you are interested in?

          • If you look carefully under about. This is a site with contents surrounding games and gaming culture. Even under NEWS it should be games and gaming culture related news.

            There are so many people commenting and negging me but no one is actually giving me any point except ‘deal with it because so and so’

            How about debate with me whether which point I make is wrong at all.

            Here are my points:

            This article is unrelated to what kotaku is about.

            Why is US politics related to gaming culture?

            Luke plunkett is a horrible journalist that does nothing but repost reddit posts.

            Bite me fellow kotaku.

          • Being a gaming news website most people expect gaming related news to be in the ‘News’ section….
            Also this is ‘News’
            This is ‘Nintendo’
            Yeah…Those sections work great.

            Personally I read/watch other news sources for political/world news. I come to Kotaku for the reason it exists, “engaging content surrounding games and gaming culture.” – Straight from the about section.

            I think it’s great to support heroic people like this who earn (and deserve) awards like the Medal of Honor, Victoria Cross, etc. That’s not what I come ‘here’ for though and why should I (or anyone) need to put up with pages of random articles on the front page just to find the one gaming article? It’s bad enough with all the terrible gifs, japanese pictures and cat stories that Bashcraft posts without now adding political news to it.

            Perhaps instead of blindly downvoting and shouting “don’t like it, don’t read it” you should acknowledge that at some point the random crap getting posted here is just beyond a joke. Perhaps if people like Plunkett weren’t wasting time on articles that have no relevance to the website they might have the time to actually research or spell-check their relevant articles. We might get decent journalism from the US for a change, OH NO!?!?

          • china working to fix internet addiction should be under news though? internet does not always mean gaming – they event say it in point 6 of their measures:

            Creating a better cultural supervision platform for video games and Internet content.

            internet content could be anything.

            you have also just said personally you go to other sites instead of Kotaku for news – fine. do you only go to sites that cater for one specific type of content? dont expect others to share your personal opinion – i might not come here for world news, but if it looks interesting i will read it regardless.

            perhaps instead of acknowledging that the amount of random crap being posted here is beyond a joke, you learn to accept that equating content relevancy with decent journalism is facetious.

          • You are lucky my longest post is under review due to god knows what reason and I await you to answer the question from that post.

            @sabrescene understands what precisely I am trying to say.

            Let me explain to you what is happening in case you are thinking this is a website that provides random news for amusement.

            Kotaku is a games and gaming culture related blog/news site. Why are there so many unrelated content appearing here when their aim is to be the most engaging site with these content (read their About).

            What if you watch Top Gear for great car reviews and someone they started reviewing Refrigerator and posting random cat videos and reposting reddit.

          • So something pointless that China is mostly already doing is news but a new Vigor announced for Bioshock Infinite isn’t?

            Where is the line drawn? Telling anyone to only read (or not read) one section on this site is stupid when the sections themselves are so messed up.
            A story about Kingdom Hearts III today (a multi-platform game, traditionally on Playstation) was under Xbox, a section I probably wouldn’t bother reading according to your logic and then would miss out on the Kingdom Hearts info.

            Also about the internet content, I think you missed the point. I wasn’t talking about the Chinese internet article being relevant, I’m talking about THIS article being relevant.

            As already mentioned the About section of this website says “At Kotaku Australia, we’re carefully trying to build a reputation for creating the strongest, most engaging content surrounding games and gaming culture.”

            Is this article interesting? Yes. Is it engaging content surrounding games and gaming culture? No. If we are just going to start posting any articles that are interesting to people, why not post about the football scores too? Or why did we not have daily articles over the last few weeks about the US debt debate? That was certainly important.
            The obvious answer is that they are not relevant to this website. yes they may be interesting and important but if people want to read those articles they should go to a ‘NEWS’ website not a ‘blog’ surrounding gaming culture.

        • You shouldn’t be sorry for having an opinion. You should be sorry for having a stupid one and still wasting your time on a website that you clearly don’t like.

        • It’s only worth having an opinion when it’s respectful and relevant. Most of the games we play today are based on modern/current warfare. So it’s nice to see someone getting rewarded for the very real aspect of combat that we only experience, and sometimes take for granted, in video games.

          Maybe you should recognize perhaps, that your opinion was in bad taste. You then went on to directly criticize the website, and personally criticize Luke Plunkett. Not sure I would call them reasonable opinions at all.

    • Theres always at least 1 smarmy little douchebag who cant appreciate what is actually happening in this and why it should be shown. The mans a baller. The more people who know this the better.

  • I remember reading about this a while ago. It’s an incredible account of bravery and courage, not just to fight the enemy but also to rescue your comrades in need, putting their life ahead of your own.

    I was happy to read this, even if it is non game related.

  • It brings perspective to those things we’ve become desensitised to through video games and often forget how dangerous and heroic those acts are in real life…where KD ratios don’t mean shit

  • if this sort of thing even happened in a video game, it would incredible. The fact that he did it in real life is amazing and takes real balls, cause in real life you dont get respawns.

  • i would personally like to read more game related news. After all that is why i visit this web page.

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