Every man and woman who volunteers to serve in the military, to make the sacrifices that come with the job, and who willingly takes the risks that come with serving the nation, especially in times of war, is a hero. But even among heroes there are those who stand above the rest. This story is about two of those who now stand among the elite of the elite.
Two Air Force special operators recently were awarded the Silver Star for their actions in two separate incidents that took place in Afghanistan in August of 2018 and September of 2019. They are Tech Sgt. Gavin Fisher who serves with the 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and Staff Sgt. Daniel Swenson, who serves with the 58th Rescue Squadron Nellis Air Force Bases, Nevada.
On Aug. 11 and 12, 2018, Tech Sgt. Fisher was in Ghazni Province of Afghanistan serving with an A-Team of Green Berets when their patrol came under an ambush by the Taliban. The enemy hit them with and intense barrage of RPGs and heavy machine gun fire. Fisher who was manning the heavy machine gun at the rear of the vehicle he was in was wounded by RPG shrapnel, but continued to direct fire at the enemy and guiding his vehicle team out of the kill zone. During the fight, Fisher treated two critically injured soldiers by stopping their massive bleeding and starting IVs on them, while continuing to keep up the fight as well. He coordinated a helicopter evacuation for the wounded.
Though wounded himself, he refused to be evacuated with the others.
A second ambush was initiated then by the Taliban and five more of the Green Berets were wounded in the initial moments of the ambush. He treated them while under intense fire and again called in a medical evacuation. He spotted five other wounded Green Berets and ran over 75 meters of open ground under intense enemy fire to get to them.
He was wounded again by RPG shrapnel at this time, but continued to fight and to call in medical evac helicopters.
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It was only then that he agreed to be evacuated to be treated for his own wounds. The Air Force credits him with having helped to save the lives of 10 soldiers and evacuating 20 casualties while helping to kill 118 Taliban fighters.
When asked how he felt about receiving the award he said, “Getting this medal is important because it lets people know the war is still going on, and valiant efforts by men and women are still going forth.”
The actions that Staff Sgt. Swenson were involved in took place in Farah Province, Afghanistan over September 13 and 14 of 2019. He was with a helicopter assault team of A-Team Green Berets entering a compound when they were hit by a massive Taliban ambush again involving RPGs, heavy machine guns and small arms fire. An RPG round hit on the other side of a wall he was behind and wounded him and five others. They were injured and trapped, but Swenson remained vigilant and alert and kept pouring heavy fire of his own out at the enemy all the while directing his partner forces to safety.
Swenson, ignoring his own injuries, ran through heavy enemy fire to reach another severely wounded soldier. In the chaos of the battle, he found a way to gather the wounded all together and to ready them for medical evacuation.
Though wounded himself, Swenson remained behind with the Green Beret team and went through another ambush, saving other soldiers.
Swenson said of his award, “It’s weird to receive so much attention for something that I feel everyone else would’ve done on the battlefield that night. I’m honored my peers think I deserve this medal.”
During the award ceremony, Gen. Charles Brown said of these two men, “Only 1% of our service men and women, representing 1% of the population, have received the Silver Star. So these gentlemen are in a very exclusive club.”
The Veterans Site sends its deepest respect and thanks to Tech Sgt. Gavin Fisher and to Staff Sgt. Daniel Swenson. Your actions in service to your brothers while in the midst of battle give us an example of true courage and dedication to duty. We are humbled and honored to know that you are among us.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.