Giunta, Gallardo visit Disneyland
Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta, waving, and wife Jen, along with Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo and wife Jackie, visit Disneyland, Jan. 12, and take part in a parade prior to an evening ceremony lowering the U.S. flag.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 20, 2011) -- While Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta visits Army units and Americans around the nation, telling his story from Afghanistan, his closest companion, wife Jen, works nearby to draw attention to issues important to Soldiers and families.

Salvatore Giunta and his wife, along with Silver Star recipient Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo and his wife, Jackie, visited Southern California as part of an ongoing effort to share the Army story. Both Salvatore Giunta and Erik Gallardo are Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Jen Giunta and Jacqueline Gallardo broke off from the group Jan. 11, to meet with Evan Housley, co-founder of the non-profit group HeroBox. The group provides to Soldiers custom-made care packages designed to truly meet an individual Soldier's needs while in theater.

Jen Giunta initiated the meeting after researching non-profit organizations that help support servicemembers and their families.

"Their work seemed very targeted, and that made me want to learn more," said Jen Giunta of the group. "I know Sal and his buddies would get care packages sometimes, but not often enough. And when they did get them, they didn't always have what they needed. I just wanted to see how they (HeroBox) were making sure that the right people were getting the right things, and if there was any way I could help."

Over lunch, Housley explained how Soldiers can go on the HeroBox.org website and sign up for support by providing their info and indicating their specific needs.

Housley, an Army Reserve Soldier, was deployed to Taji, Iraq in 2007, when his brother first conceived of the idea for HeroBox. Intimately familiar with the need for this kind of support, the Housley brothers take seriously their efforts to ensure every Soldier in need gets the help they deserve.

"If there are any Soldiers left without sponsors, then we plan a 'HeroDay' to make sure they get what they need," said Housley.

HeroDays are events where groups of people spend a day working together to assemble care packages for a unit of deployed Soldiers, he said.

Jackie Gallardo, a Family Readiness Group leader at her home base of Vincenza, Italy, said she knew so many people that wanted to help, but didn't know where to go or what to do.

HeroBox takes the guesswork out of it, and provides the kind of help the Soldiers can really use, she said.

Jen Giunta continues to research other non-profit organizations that support servicemembers and their families, as she plans to choose several to support in the coming years.

"A lot of Sal's buddies had a hard time finding work after they got out of the Army, so sites like HireaHero.org that help connect former servicemembers with employers really interest me, too," she said.

The Giuntas and Gallardos spent the rest of the week meeting with centers of influence from various companies and organizations, to include a speaking engagement and luncheon with members of the NBC community, and meeting with the Lifetime Television writers and producers of for the television show "Army Wives."

At each meeting, Salvatore Giunta reinforced how grateful he is for the love and support of his wife.

"People will sometimes walk right past Jen and come up to me and want to shake my hand and thank me," said Salvatore Giunta. "But I couldn't do this without her. She's more important than I am, if you ask me. She's my rock."

For more information on other homefront nonprofits that support servicemembers and their families, visit http://www.ourmilitary.mil/help.shtml.

Page last updated Thu January 20th, 2011 at 17:37