The Cedar Rapids native who was the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War has given the medal to his unit.
In 2010, Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta was recognized with the nation’s highest military award for his actions when his squad was ambushed in Afghanistan a decade ago. During a ceremony last week at the brigade’s headquarters, Giunta surprised the crowd — including the commanding officer — with an announcement about his medal.
“I want this to stay here in Vicenza, Italy, with the 173rd, with the men and woman who earn this every day through their selflessness and sacrifice,” Giunta said.
CNN reported on Giunta’s gesture after the unit posted a video of the event on Facebook.
Giunta was 18 years old when he enlisted in the Army in 2003. After basic training, he became a “Sky Soldier” assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Giunta has often said the “worst day” of his life was the day of the battle that led the Army to recommend him for the Medal of Honor. On that day, Giunta rescued his wounded friend and fellow soldier from insurgents, but the soldier died later of his injuries.
During that recent ceremony in Italy, here’s how Giunta described surviving: “I am not here because I’m a great soldier. I am here because I served with great soldiers.”
Giunta retired from the military in 2011 at the rank of staff sergeant. His autobiography is titled “Living with Honor” and Giunta often tells audiences that Medal of Honor recipients do not represent themselves, they represent all soldiers in the American military — past, present and future.