President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Capt. William D. Swenson of Seattle, Wash., during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House in Washington, on Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel apologized to the newest Medal of Honor recipient on Wednesday for having to wait so long between his nomination and the time he was actually presented the medal.
"We're sorry that you and your family had to endure through that,” Hagel said, “but you did and you handled it right. And I think that deserves a tremendous amount of attention and credit."
At a ceremony to induct former Army Capt. William Swenson into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes on Wednesday, Hagel said that Swenson "proved his valor on the battlefield," and then he, "dared to question the institution that he was faithful to and loyal to."
Swenson, of Seattle, was part of an American team training Afghan security forces when insurgents attacked Gangjal, a village in Afghanistan's Kunar province, near the Pakistan border.
President Barack Obama presented the 34-year-old Swenson with the nation’s highest military honor on Tuesday.
Swenson was first nominated for the medal in 2009 but his paperwork was lost, according to the military. The nomination was resubmitted in 2011.
"Mistakes were made, in his case," Hagel said, adding that the U.S. Army "went back and acknowledged a mistake was made and they fixed it."
The Army "did self-correct. It was a wrong. They corrected it. They fixed it," Hagel said.
Swenson's actions on the battlefield occurred on Sept. 8, 2009, more than four years before he was presented the Medal of Honor. A Marine in the same battle, former Cpl. Dakota Meyer, received his Medal of Honor in September 2011.
The Defense Department’s Inspector General has launched an investigation into the delay to determine whether there was any negligence involved.
During the battle in 2009, Swenson repeatedly ran into the intense seven-hour firefight and evacuated injured U.S. and Afghan soldiers. Video taken from a helmet-mounted camera showed Swenson bringing a wounded soldier to a helicopter and kissing him on the head before running off to evacuate more troops.
After returning from Afghanistan, Swenson went on to dispute the U.S. military’s narrative of the fierce battle, which killed five Americans, 10 Afghan troops an interpreter and wounded two dozen of others coalition troops.
Swenson also has said that the military failed to order air support to protect coalition troops engaged in the battle.
According to The Washington Post, Swenson and Meyer have a rocky relationship, with Swenson showing skepticism about Meyer’s account of the firefight, which was published in a book entitled “Into the Fire.”
Jim Miklaszewski and Elizabeth Chuck of NBC News contributed to this report.
First published October 16 2013, 5:26 PM