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Did soldier's open criticism prevent him from receiving valor medal?

By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 14, 2011

WASHINGTON — Dakota Meyer’s Medal of Honor revives lingering questions about the botched battle of Ganjgal, including whether another soldier in the fight is being marginalized by military officials for publicly blasting command decisions that endangered U.S. troops’ lives.

Two other Marines were honored with Navy Crosses for their heroism in the fight, but Army Capt. William Swenson — a man Meyer credits with saving his life — has received no valor award for his contribution.

In an interview with Military Times, Meyer called that oversight “ridiculous.” Swenson, who left the Army earlier this year, could not be reached for comment.

Battlefield reports say Swenson’s actions mirrored Meyer’s. He was at a different location on the mountainside when the ambush occurred, and helped evacuate wounded colleagues to safety before linking up with Meyer and recovering the bodies of the fallen Marines.

But Swenson was also publicly critical of command decisions not to provide air strikes and artillery support to the fighters, and families of the troops killed in the battle suspect that has led to his exclusion from the honor rolls.

A Defense Department investigation released five months later said that negligent leadership and a command refusal for air support directly contributed to the deaths of Meyer’s fellow fighters, and reprimanded three Army officers.

Included in that investigation were scathing comments from Swenson, who blasted off-site commanders for making life-or-death decisions from afar.

The Military Times, citing an Army official with knowledge of the awards process, said that Swenson may receive recognition for his battlefield actions in coming months. But, for now, no official changes to his status have been made.

shanel@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @LeoShane

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