Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr. was born on Sept. 1, 1974 at Fort Hood, Texas, to Gary Sr. and Deborah Swenchonis.
Swenchonis graduated from Rockport-Fulton High School in Rockport, Texas, in 1994, and enlisted in the U.S. Army for four years. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Jan. 14, 1999.
After completing Basic Training in Great Lakes, Illinois, on June 4, 1999, Swenchonis was a student at Surface Warfare Engineering School, also at Great Lakes, completing training on Aug. 20, 1999. He reported to USS Cole (DDG 67) on Oct. 30, 1999.
Swenchonis was killed in the line of duty when a terrorist bomb was detonated along the port side of the ship while it was refueling in Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12,2000.
Fireman Apprentice Swenchonis was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, and the rank of fireman. He earned many medals and decorations while serving in the Army, including the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Army Service Ribbon.
Sources: USS Cole (DDG 67) Med Cruise 2000 (Aug. 8–Nov. 3, 2000) Cruise Book in the collection of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Navy Department Library. Awards and citations are sourced from the service member’s official military personnel file and listed in the Navy Department Awards Web Service site and may not be complete.