The president will bestow the nation’s highest military honor on an Iowan this afternoon during a ceremony at the White House. Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta of Hiawatha will be the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.
“It is very bitter sweet,” Giunta says of the award. “It is such a great thing and it is such a huge honor and it’s an opportunity to let the American people know how hard its soldiers are fighting for them so they can live the lives they live every single day, uninterrupted.”
Guinta says in his opinion everyone who’s serving in Iraq and Afghanistan right now is going above and beyond the call of duty. “If this is what I can do is bring to the attention of the people all these other people, I could do this every day,” Giunta says.
On October 25, 2007, Sal Giunta was a 22-year-old specialist on patrol with 17 other men in a remote part of Afghanistan. Giunta’s platoon was walking on a rough, narrow path over steep mountains when they were ambushed by Taliban insurgents firing rockets and machine guns. According to the Army, Giunta charged into enemy fire to rescue a wounded soldier who was being dragged away by the Taliban. Giunta was shot in the chest, but he was wearing armor.
“That day, I didn’t do anything in my eyes spectacular or amazing because there was a lot of things that were going on and there was a lot of danger,” Giunta says. “No one person was in more danger or in less danger than the other ones.”
Giunta is still with the Army’s 173 Airborne Brigade Combat Team, but he’s now stationed in Italy and he’s been promoted to staff sergeant. Today’s Medal of Honor ceremony is scheduled to begin at one o’clock Iowa time in the White House.
Giunta’s story was featured in this past Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes. He’s been interviewed in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. CNN posted this story about the battle itself. ABC posted this story about Giunta and the battle in September.