Often coming up short on words to describe their respect for and gratitude toward U.S. Army Capt. William Swenson, members of the state Senate today spoke in praise and admiration while adopting a resolution to honor the hometown hero who resides in Seattle.
Senate Resolution 8686, sponsored by west Pierce County Sen. Steve O’Ban, recognizes the valiant and selfless actions of Capt. Swenson in 2009 that earned him the Medal of Honor in 2013. O’Ban, whose 28th Legislative District includes Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where both of his sons serve in the U.S. Army, could barely hold back his emotion as he addressed Capt. Swenson in the Senate chamber.
“Captain Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor for acts of gallantry – at the risk of his life – above and beyond the call of duty. The danger Captain Swenson faced that day was not some general risk of injury…it was the immediate threat of imminent death,” O’Ban said. “No one ordered him to repeatedly place himself at the threshold of death to save his brethren. No one would have judged him disloyal for not going in a second, third or fourth time into mortal peril.”
On Sept. 8, 2009, Capt. Swenson and others were engaged by anti-Afghan forces in the Ganjgal Valley within 100 meters of Ganjgal Village, forcing Swenson to simultaneously return fire while directing troops where to go to provide cover fire for soldiers pinned down by the insurgents’ initial volley. As the anti-Afghan forces began calling for Swenson and his group to surrender, he fought back while providing first aid to his wounded partner. It was an act of resistance that inspired the troops pinned nearby to rally; their subsequent response disrupted the attack and pushed the enemy back beyond hand-grenade range.
Capt. Swenson helped carry his wounded partner, with rocket-propelled grenades striking close by, across 200 meters of terraced open ground and got him loaded into a waiting MedEvac helicopter. Swenson then returned to the firefight to rescue more of his fallen comrades.
“We honor Captain Swenson, not just for the offering of his life for his comrades but because we want that bravery to be passed on to the next generation,” O’Ban continued. “What we honor, we elevate…and we want our children to emulate. Captain Swenson represents the countless acts of heroism by men and women who can’t be here today, so for their sake as well as Captain Swenson’s bravery I want to thank him for being a stalwart defender of our liberty and our freedom.”
Capt. Swenson spoke briefly after a long standing ovation, saying he was proud to fight his battles for our country, but now there’s another battle ahead here at home.
“My responsibilities are to carry on the memories of my fallen colleagues, to remind the American people that we still have service members downrange and that we have veterans whose battles continue even though they’re now home,” Capt. Swenson said. “But here in the Legislature, you have a responsibility to those veterans and those service members that reside in Washington state, and I ask that you always remember that some of our members who have come home still need our help.”