First living Soldier to get Medal of Honor in War on Terror
September 13, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 13, 2010) -- A Soldier who bounded forward to recover wounded during an ambush in Afghanistan will be the Army's first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam conflict.
Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta got a call, Sept. 9, from President Barack Obama, letting him know he will be that Medal of Honor recipient due to the efforts he made in Afghanistan to save the lives of fellow Soldiers, even though doing so put his own life in the balance.
It was for Giunta's actions, Oct. 25, 2007, in the Korengal Valley's Gatigal Spur in Afghanistan that he earned the nation's highest honor. It was then, serving as part of 1st Platoon, Battle Company, 2/503 (Airborne) Infantry, that he and his team were ambushed by Anti-Afghan Forces armed with AK-47s, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
"Everyone in our squad had a round go through their equipment or clothes in some way, or was wounded or killed," said Spc. Kaleb Casey.
Two of the Soldiers in Giunta's unit -- Sgt. Charles Brennan and Spc. Franklin Eckrode -- were injured by the enemy fire. The squad leader, Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo, was also hit. Giunta made efforts, without regard for his own safety, to assist all three injured Soldiers and was himself hit by enemy fire in the process.
Giunta first came to the aid of his squad leader, Gallardo, and pulled him to safety. During that effort, he was hit in the chest, though he was protected by his body armor. He was also hit on his back, near his shoulders. That round destroyed the Shoulder launched multipurpose assault weapon-disposable he was carrying.
"Thinking I fell because I was wounded, Spc. Giunta, without hesitation, ran into the open area to get me cover while we were both taking extremely effective small arms and machine-gun fire," wrote Gallardo in a sworn statement about the event. "Giunta dragged me back to cover where he already had his team online suppressing the enemy with his automatic rifleman, Pfc. Casey..."
After ensuring that Gallardo was safe, Giunta moved his unit forward to destroy the enemy's ambush and to make contact with the downed Soldiers Brennan and Eckrode. The team threw hand grenades at the enemy in order to stop their attack long enough to move forward to assist their fallen comrades.
Giunta, during his effort to aid Brennan and Eckrode, found the two had become separated -- Brennan was not near Eckrode, where he had originally fallen. In an effort to find Brennan, Giunta crested a hill and isolated himself from the rest of the Soldiers and the protection they provided. What he saw were two of the enemy carrying Brennan's body away from the ambush site.
"While running, I engaged both (enemies) with what was left of the mag I had in my weapon, which was about 15 rounds ... they dropped Sgt. Brennan's body about ten meters from where he was initially wounded," Giunta said. "Both turned and ran, I was only able to kill one."
As a result of that effort, Giunta was able to reach Brennan and find that he was still alive, despite injuries from multiple gunshot and shrapnel wounds.
"I immediately called for Sgt. Gallardo and a medic," Giunta wrote.
The Soldier and his squad leader, Gallardo, helped keep Brennan alive until medics could arrive, by assisting in respiration and by helping to stop his bleeding.
"I started to perform buddy aid, cutting away his ruck and pulling the release tab of his (vest) and removing it," Giunta said.
Though Brennan later died of his injuries, as did fellow Soldier Spc. Hugo V. Mendoza, Giunta's efforts during the incident were deemed worthy of the Medal of Honor.
"Specialist Giunta's selfless disregard for his own safety while defeating a determined enemy ambush and rescuing his comrades was of the quality and nature of previous Medal of Honor recipients," wrote Gen. David Petraeus, then the commander of U.S. Central Command. "His demonstrated valor was in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism."
Giunta is among eight servicemembers who have been named as recipients of the medal of honor as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, though prior recipients received the honor posthumously.
Included among those recipients are Spc. Ross A. McGinnis, Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, and Marine Corps Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, all for actions in Iraq. Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti and Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy were awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Robert Miller will be awarded the medal posthumously in October.
The ceremony to award the medal to Giunta will happen at a later date, said a release on the White House's web site.