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Salvatore A. Giunta

Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta

B (Battle) Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, V Corps, Vicenza, Italy

Parents: Steven and Rosemary Giunta

Wife: Jennifer Giunta

Born: Iowa, 1985

Hometown: Grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School.

Assignments: Staff Sgt. Giunta enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 2003. He attended Infantry One Station Unit Training and the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy, on May 24, 2004.

Staff Sgt. Giunta, who was promoted to his current rank in August 2009, has served in B (Battle) Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, V Corps, Vicenza, Italy, his entire time in the Army. He currently serves as the Rear Detachment Non-commissioned Officer-in-Charge (NCOIC) of Battle Company, responsible for the health, welfare, morale, training, and accountability of all assigned Sky Soldiers, and works side-by-side with other Rear Detachment Company NCOICs to ensure all unit family members are well taken care of while their Soldier spouse is deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom X.

Staff Sgt. Giunta's professionalism and proficiency is further demonstrated by his graduation from the NBC (Nuclear, Chemical, Biological) Defense Course, Unit Armorer's Course, Combat Lifesaver Course, Warrior Leader Course, and Rear Detachment Leaders Course, in addition to the Italian Airborne School.

 

Awards: Medal of Honor (awarded November 16, 2010)

Bronze Star Medal

Purple Heart

Army Commendation Medal (with one bronze oak leaf cluster)

Army Achievement Medal

Army Good Conduct Medal

National Defense Service Medal

Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with one bronze service star)

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon

Army Service Ribbon

Army Overseas Service Ribbon

NATO Medal for ISAF (Afghanistan)

 

Combat Infantryman Badge

Basic Parachutist Badge

Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle Bar

 

Italian Parachutist Badge

German Parachutist Badge

British Parachutist Badge

 

Deployments: Staff Sgt. Giunta has participated in seven training deployments to Germany and two training deployments to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany. He also participated in two combat deployments to Afghanistan. His first combat deployment was during Operation Enduring Freedom VI, March 2005 to March 2006. His second combat deployment to Afghanistan was during Operation Enduring Freedom VIII, May 2007 to July 2008. During this second deployment, on October 25, 2007, Staff Sgt. Giunta's platoon (in which he was then a specialist serving as a rifle team leader) was ambushed in the rugged Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan. For his extraordinary gallantry, unrivalled courage, and selfless leadership in action that day, Staff Sgt. Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony on November 16, 2010. The White House described how Staff Sgt. Giunta earned the Medal of Honor:

"Then-Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta distinguished himself by acts of gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifle team leader with Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan on October 25, 2007.

When an insurgent force split Specialist Giunta's squad into two groups, he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a comrade back to cover. Later, while engaging the enemy and attempting to link up with the rest of his squad, Specialist Giunta noticed two insurgents carrying away a fellow soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other, and provided medical aid to his wounded comrade while the rest of his squad caught up and provided security. 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 paratrooper from enemy hands."

Staff Sgt. Giunta was the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor for service in Iraq or Afghanistan, the first living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, and the eighth service member to receive the nation's highest military decoration for valor in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Salvatore (”Sal") Augustine Giunta was born in Iowa, the winter of 1985. He is the oldest of three children of Steven, a medical equipment technician, and Rosemary, a pre-school teacher.

Staff Sgt. Giunta was raised in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha, Iowa. Childhood adventures were in many instances a forerunner of Staff Sgt. Giunta's adult life and experiences in the Army. As a kindergartner, his mother taught him how to remove the screen from his ground-level bedroom window to escape in an emergency, such as a fire. That night, he reportedly packed a suitcase, crawled out the window, and attempted to take advantage of his new-found freedom – but made it only as far as a neighbor's because he did not know where to go. The open window escape route, coupled with sense of adventure, willing to tempt the unknown, and resultant wanderlust, may have inspired his attendance at the U.S. Army Airborne School and military service as a paratrooper.

In high school, the charismatic and outgoing Salvatore seems to have been, according to his parents, more interested in “socializing and goofing off” than in grades - and the open window frequently provided him with many opportunities to do so. Indeed, his parents have said his “energy” could be “challenging.” Examples of his good humor and frivolity include the time ”when he stole the mouse from his math teacher's computer, or sneaked out to put a Kennedy High School shirt on an opposing team's statue.” A neighbor later recalled that Salvatore's “bravery” stood out when he was in high school.

Salvatore was a junior at Kennedy High School when hijacked commercial jets were intentionally crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. His mother recalled that Salvatore immediately wanted to bring the family together and ensure their safety by picking up his brother from middle school and sister from elementary school, and she remembers telling him: "If the world falls part, I guess I can count on you." It was probably this same overriding sense of family and concern for his rifle platoon brothers, and his recognized bravery, that motivated his actions in Afghanistan on Oct. 25, 2007.

In summing up his life prior to joining the Army in 2003, Salvatore said, "The first 18 years of my life were in Iowa. I'm an Iowan." With characteristic humility, he added, "Every single person who has touched my life has made me who I am today...The only responsibility I claim for myself is if I screw up."

While there were indications that Staff Sgt. Giunta had been recommended for the Medal of Honor and that the nomination had a good chance of approval, it was not until Sept. 10, 2010 that the White House announced that Staff Sgt. Giunta would receive the Medal of Honor, the first awarded to a living recipient since the Vietnam War. On the previous day, Sept. 9, 2010, President Barack Obama telephoned Staff Sgt. Giunta to personally inform him that he would be awarded the Medal of Honor and to thank him for his gallant and selfless service. "President Obama said ‘thank you' for what I did," Staff Sgt. Giunta said in an interview after receiving the phone call from the President. "My heart was pounding in my chest, so much that my ears almost stopped hearing. I had my wife by my side. She was holding my hand. When she heard me say, ‘Mr. President,' she gave me a squeeze."

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Since being thrust into the national limelight on Sept. 10, 2010, Staff Sgt. Giunta has continuously reacted with characteristic modesty and humility. "This was a situation we were put into," Staff Sgt. Giunta observed. "By no means did I do anything that everyone else wouldn't have done.

"It's all kind of blurry," he stated a few days after the Medal of Honor announcement, "There wasn't a whole lot of thinking I needed to do. Looking at it like a picture, I'm just another brushstroke in the picture."

"I didn't run up to do anything heroic. Everybody's been shot at, and I might as well run forward," Staff Sgt. Giunta said he thought at the time.

In the wake of the Medal of Honor announcement, Staff Sgt. Giunta also candidly observed that Oct. 25, 2007, was "one of the worst days of my life, and when I revisit it, it kind of guts me a little bit more every time." He also described his award of the Medal of Honor as "bittersweet": "It's a huge honor...but it does bring back memories of all the people I'd love to share this moment with who are no longer with us." Indeed, Staff Sgt. Giunta's mother recalls her son telling her that, "The medal [Medal of Honor] should go to the guy on the right of me and the guy on the left of me. We were all in the fight."

Staff Sgt. Giunta has continued to demonstrate reluctance for being singled out for his remarkable heroism, observing that, "This respect that people are giving to me? This was one moment. In my battalion, I am mediocre at best. This shows how great the rest of them are." Humbly summing up the situation, Staff Sgt. Giunta stated, "If I'm a hero, then every man that stands round me, every woman in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero."

Staff Sgt. Giunta's personification of the Warrior Ethos, his selfless leadership, and his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above the beyond the call of duty" provide tremendous inspiration and exemplify the very best of the American Soldier today.