It's a crazy world when a heroic moment during one of the bloodiest battles in an 11-year war is captured on camera and uploaded to YouTube—especially when the soldier's actions were later awarded the Medal of Honor.
President Obama presented former Army Capt. William Swenson with the military's highest decoration at the White House yesterday. In his remarks, the president said that the Medal of Honor's been awarded nearly 3,500 times in the America's history, "but this may be the first time that we can actually bear witness to a small part of those actions for ourselves." The footage is "shaky and grainy," he said, "but it takes us to the frontlines that our troops face every day."
Swenson's credited with running into a field of grenades and machine gun fire from a Taliban ambush to rescue a comrade during the Battle of Ganjgal in Afghanistan in 2009. He also coordinated medical evacuation helicopters and retrieved the bodies of fallen soldiers.
About five minutes of raw footage was captured by cameras mounted to the helmets of the helicopter crew. The video shows the Army captain help a soldier who had been shot in the neck, Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, into a helicopter, and then lean in to kiss the dying soldier on the head—a "simple act of compassion and loyalty," the President said. Then Swenson goes back to the battle, which would last for six more hours. Fifteen soldiers died and another two-dozen were wounded.
The footage was posted online courtesy of Westbrook's widow. She would later thank Swenson for keeping her husband alive long enough for them to say their goodbyes.