Submitted by Peter Olsen
Sgt. Salvatore Giunta is a real-life hero. In September 2010 he was awarded the Medal of Honor, which he earned while fighting in the war in Afghanistan in October 2007. The Medal of Honor is given for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual conflict with an opposing armed force. Giunta received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions and willingness to sacrifice for his troop, by risking his own life to save another soldier.
Salvatore Giunta was born on January 21, 1985 in Clinton, Iowa. He grew up in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha. His parents are Steve and Rose. He has a brother named Mario and sister named Katie. Salvatore attended John F. Kennedy High School. Giunta enlisted in the Army in 2003, after hearing a recruiting commercial on the radio while working at a Subway sandwich shop. He was first deployed to Afghanistan from March 2005 until March 2006. His second tour lasted from May 2007 until July 2008. Giunta was promoted to staff sergeant in August 2009. He is currently stationed at a base near Vicenza, Italy, where he resides with his wife Jennifer.
Sgt. Giunta is the first living person to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. There haven’t been very many medals at all awarded since then, and those that were awarded had to be given posthumously. An analysis by Army Times states that there were, on average, two or three Medals of Honor per 100,000 service personnel in previous wars – but that the rate for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan averaged only one per million. It’s also important to note that the Medal of Honor is not won like a prize in some sort of competition. It is awarded for one reason only, because the person earned it through distinctive accomplishment.
Courage. Selflessness. Sacrifice. These are commendable terms that characterize Sgt. Giunta. But what actions make him deserving of such high praise?
Courage – Sgt. Salvatore Guinta is a very courageous man. This brave American soldier exposed himself to enemy fire so he could pull one soldier back to cover. He also shot two insurgents after seeing them try to carry away another U.S. soldier. According to a statement issued by the White House, “His courage and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon’s ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from enemy hands.” Sgt. Guinta has the heart and courage of a true American hero.
Selflessness – Sgt. Salvatore Giunta is an excellent representation of selflessness. He risked his own life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Very few would be brave enough to risk their own life to save the lives of others. The families of the fallen soldiers, the people, and our country will forever remember this act of selflessness. As described on IowaPolitics.com, “Sergeant Giunta’s selflessness, first by choosing to serve his country, and then by risking his life to save the lives of his compatriots, is an inspiration. At a time when America is tried by war and recession, his story reminds us of what is best about our country.”
Sacrifice – Sgt. Salvatore Giunta is a notable example of the word “sacrifice.” He and his troop often went without electricity or running water, ate pre-packaged meals every day, and went up to a month without showering. They patrolled a mountainous region where Taliban fighters had the high ground and would constantly shoot into the U.S. camps. As if that wasn’t enough, Sgt. Giunta also put his life on the line to save his fellow soldiers’ lives. There are not very many people who would do the things that this brave American soldier has done for his country and his fellow soldiers. Yet he had no hesitation in doing so.
Rose Giunta said her son gives credit to God for surviving the attack, which surely should have killed the entire squad. She said: “There was a piece there when my son was struggling just with, ‘Who am I? I want to be this person that you want me to be, God. But you’ve seen what I’ve done.'”
Due to his acts of courage, selflessness, and sacrifice, Sgt. Giunta is truly a national hero deserving of the Medal of Honor. While each of these characteristics is shown in his military actions, something that is not always recognized but is especially noteworthy of Sgt. Giunta is his humility. His father, Steve Giunta, said, “He was very honored, but … he’s just humble and…I don’t think he’s completely comfortable with that kind of recognition when everybody else in the squad did their job as well.” Sgt. Giunta himself said, “If I’m a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman in the military… is a hero.”
Rather than be singled out as a hero, Sgt. Giunta would prefer that his award stand for the many heroic acts being carried out by many soldiers everyday. That the award stand for his purpose – to protect our country…and each one of us!
Crumb, Michael J. “Salvatore Giunta to Get Medal of Honor, 1st Living Afghan War Veteran Receiving One.” The Huffington Post. September 10, 2010. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/10/salvatore-giunta-medal-of-honor_n_712928.html>
“Exclusive: Sgt. Guinta Talks About Medal of Honor.” KCRG-TV News. September 13, 2010. <http://www.kcrg.com/news/local/EXCLUSIVE-Sgt-Guinta-Talks-About-Medal-Of-Honor-With-KCRG-TV9-102767194.html>
Home Page. U.S. Army. <http://www.army.mil>
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Junger, Sebastian. War. New York, NY: Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group, 2010, Chapter 2.
Mulrine, Anna. “Medal of Honor Recipient Salvatore Giunta Tells His Story.” The Christian Science Monitor. September 16, 2010. <http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2010/0916/Medal-of-Honor-recipient-Salvatore-Giunta-tells-his-story>
Shanker, Tom. “Medal of Honor to be Awarded to Living Recipient, First Since Vietnam War.” The Seattle Times. September 10, 2010. <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2012865867_medal11.html>
“Top Stories Video,” KGAN CBS 2. September 15, 2010. <http://www.kgan.com/shared/newsroom/top_stories/videos/kgan_vid_3414.shtml>
“U.S. Sen. Harkin: Sgt. Salvatore Giunta is a National Hero.” IowaPolitics.com. September 10, 2010. <http://www.iowapolitics.com/index.iml?Article=209984>
Verburg, Steven. “Medal of Honor Bestowed on Soldier Who Prevented Capture of Fallen McFarland Soldier.” Wisconsin State Journal. September 10, 2010. <http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/article_5c73a0a8-bce9-11df-826a-001cc4c03286.html>