Rules To Die From

The U.S. Army leadership is upset at the recent award of the Medal of Honor (the highest American award for valor) to U.S. Marine Corps sergeant Dakota Meyer. The army generals don’t begrudge sergeant Meyer his medal, because he risked his life two years ago, for several hours, in order to save the lives of 24 Afghan and American troops trapped in an ambush. What disturbs the army leaders most is that Meyer was not alone while performing his heroic act. He had a companion, Army captain William Swenson, But Swenson has received no recognition from the army. That’s because Swenson has been vocal about why he and sergeant (then corporal) Meyer had to perform those heroic acts (of driving a vehicle into the ambush, grabbing survivors and shooting their way out, and doing it five times.) Before the two off them drove off on their suicidal mission. Swenson tried to get a nearby army headquarters to provide artillery and air support for the trapped men, but the officers on duty refused.

This was because a new general had taken over command of U.S. troops in Afghanistan three months earlier, and issued strict rules on the use of American firepower when there was any risk to Afghan civilians. This was part of an effort to reduce civilian casualties. Troops in Afghanistan, and everyone back home, were told that these new rules would not prevent American troops getting fire support if their lives were in danger. But for Meyer and Swenson, the restrictions were killing American troops (in this case, four marines and a soldier.) The closest American headquarters had maps showing the ambush taking place near a village, so there was great reluctance to use bombs or artillery.

Meyer and Swenson both subsequently left the military. But Swenson kept pressing the army to punish the officers at the nearby headquarters who repeatedly refused to provide any fire support for the trapped troops. If Swenson, Meyer and two other marines had not driven in, at great risk to themselves, over twenty U.S. and American troops would have died. The two other marines were awarded the Navy Cross (the second highest award). Swenson is believed to be up for a medal, but the army won’t say what, or when. The army has not punished anyone for refusing fire support, and apparently wishes the entire matter would fade away.


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