MoH Monday: LTC William Swenson

Jessica Evans
Updated onMay 22, 2023 2:13 PM PDT
2 minute read
LTC William Swenson

William Swenson, left, assists severely wounded Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook onto a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Sept. 8, 2009, during the Battle of Ganjgal in Afghanistan. The photo is a frame taken from a video filmed by a camera mounted on the helmet of pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Penrod of the Nevada National Guard.


Lieutenant Colonel William Swenson is a member of the United States Army and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Lieutenant Colonel William Swenson is a member of the United States Army and a recipient of the Medal of Honor. He earned the award for his courageous action during the War on Terror in Afghanistan.

LTC William Swenson Background

Swenson was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1978. After completing high school, he attended Seattle University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. Interested in military service, he joined the United States Army in 2002. After completing basic training, he immediately enrolled in Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

During his military career, Swenson deployed three times in the War on Terror. He first received orders to deploy to Iraq, then to Afghanistan where he took part in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Medal of Honor Action

On September 8, 2009, the world witnessed an act of heroism in the Ganjgal Valley of Kunar Province, Afghanistan, as Swenson and his team embarked on a dangerous mission. The convoy was escorting Afghan officials to a meeting. Insurgents, hiding on mountain ledges, attacked unexpectedly.

As the sound of machine guns filled the air, the attack left several of Swenson's comrades wounded or killed. Undeterred and with no thought for his own safety, Swenson bravely ran through enemy fire to render first aid to the fallen service members.

When the enemy advanced, demanding that Swenson and his men surrender, he refused to give up, instead using his bravery to motivate his fellow soldiers. Swenson fought back with grenades. Then, he carried his injured sergeant to safety. When air support arrived, he went back into harm's way multiple times to save other wounded and recover fallen bodies.

President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Capt. William D. Swenson during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Mulderick)

Continuing to serve

On October 15, 2013, President Barack Obama presented Lieutenant Colonel Swenson with his Medal of Honor during a special ceremony at the White House. Swenson separated from the military in 2011 and returned to civilian life in Seattle. He re-enlisted with the army in 2014 and continues to serve.  

Despite the intense seven-hour battle and the loss of 15 lives, Swenson's bravery and selflessness ultimately saved many members of the convoy from capture. The Battle of Ganjgal will forever be remembered.


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