The Iowan who’ll receive the nation’s highest military honor later this year says he’s growing more comfortable with the media attention and his status as a war hero. However, Army Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta is also quick to point out he only did what he was trained to do. The Hiawatha native will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in October 2007.
“I didn’t do anything, in my eyes, spectacular or amazing,” Giunta said. “There was a lot of things going on and a lot of danger. No one person was in more or less danger than the other ones.” Giunta is being recognized for charging into enemy fire to pull another soldier to cover after his squad was ambushed by insurgents.
Two U.S. soldiers, friends of Giunta, were killed in the attack. Giunta will become the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam. He estimates he’s spoken with 30 to 40 media outlets since learning of the honor in a telephone call from President Obama on September 9. The 25-year-old Giunta says he’s proud to act as a spokesperson for the U.S. military.
“It’s an opportunity to let the American people know how hard soldiers are fighting for them, so they can live the life they live every single day uninterrupted – when there’s a large group of people who’s lives are incredibly interrupted,” Giunta said. “(Soldiers) are giving their blood, sweat and tears so we can go to the mall, hang out after school or whatever you do.” Giunta was shot in the chest during the fire fight, but he was saved by protective body armor. He believes any U.S. soldier would’ve acted in the same manner.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan right now that you can’t say they’re going above and beyond the call of duty,” Giunta said. “I mean, they’re leaving their wives, children, mothers, fathers and grandparents. They’re leaving life in a fairly secure country behind to go to a third world country and fight. So, that seems pretty much to me, above and beyond.”
Giunta graduated from Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School. His wife is from Dubuque. Giunta plans to leave the Army soon and says, while he’s proud to call Iowa “home,” he and his wife are hoping to move to Colorado. Giunta made his comments Thursday on the Iowa Public Radio program The Exchange. The Medal of Honor ceremony has yet to be scheduled.