Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta… An American Hero

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, 25, has become the first living recipient to receive the Medal of Honor from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be given to an individual in the U.S. Army. Although there have been six other Medals of Honor awarded from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, their awards were posthumous.

Sgt. Giunta received the award for his actions in response to an ambush in Afghanistan’s dangerous Korengal Valley on Oct. 25, 2007. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in the ambush and several others were wounded.

(nowpublic.com)

Salvatore Giunta was working nights at Subway in Iowa when he saw a commercial on television for the Army.  He decided to join.  His first posting was in Zabul, Afghanistan with the 173rd and Battle Company.  He had signed up for four years.  When his tour was up he was stationed in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, located south of the Pech River in the Pech District of Kunar Province in northeastern Afghanistan.  He was unable to leave the Army even though his tour was up because of the military’s Stop-Loss policy.  Stop-Loss is a term used by the military.  It is the involuntary extension of a service member’s active duty service under the enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service (ETS) date and up to their contractually agreed end of obligated service (EOS).

Sgt. Giunta was serving at the time as a team leader in Company B, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment when his squad was ambushed by insurgents, according to an account provided by the Army. His rank was specialist at the time.  His squad was involved with  Operation Rock Avalanche, a multiple-company mission that ran Oct. 19-25 in the Chapa Dara, Korengal, Shuryak and Pech river valleys.

Via USA Today –

Intense enemy fire from insurgents split Giunta’s team from the rest of his squad. Giunta was knocked down when a bullet hit him in his armored chest plate. He immediately charged straight into enemy fire in order to pull a comrade back to cover.  As he attempted to link his team with the rest of the squad, he saw insurgents drag a badly wounded colleague off the battlefield. Tossing hand grenades, Giunta charged the enemy, killing one insurgent and wounding another. He recovered the colleague and immediately began providing first aid. The soldier later died from his wounds.

It was Giunta’s second tour of duty in Afghanistan. He had previously been awarded the Bronze Star.

Giunta has been quoted as saying of the night battle where he won his medal that “there were more bullets in the air than stars in the sky. A wall of bullets at every one at the same time with one crack and then a million other cracks afterwards. They’re above you, in front of you, behind you, below you. They’re hitting in the dirt early. They’re going over your head. Just all over the place. They were close—as close as I’ve ever seen.”

On Tuesday, November 16, President Obama formally presented Sgt. Giunta with the Medal of Honor.  In brief comments after the ceremony, Giunta said that as much of an honor as the medal was, he would give it back in an instant in exchange for the lives of friends who died fighting in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, Humble American Hero.  God bless you and keep you, sir.

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