The Pentagon announced last week that Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan on October 25, 2007. Army Times has already written an account of his heroic story (click here to read the article by Andrew Tilghman), and I can’t improve on what was written, but I want you to watch the interview of SSgt Giunta and his wife by reporters at the Pentagon (SSgt and his wife Jenny were in Italy and communicated by video teleconference), as recorded and broadcast on CSPAN. Click here to see the CSPAN interview. It takes thirty minutes to view the whole thing, but it will be the best half hour you have spent all day.
As I sat and watched him and his wife talk about the significance of the Medal of Honor and describe the firefight in Afghanistan that set the stage for his heroics, a wave of pride and admiration washed over me. This young man from Iowa spoke with poise, eloquence, and confidence. He talked about the respect he has for others serving in the military. He described the announcement of his medal as being “bittersweet” because those who are still in harm’s way, and those who never came back won’t get to share the moment with him. He deflected all the accolades, instead insisting that he was just an average Soldier. “I’m mediocre,” he said. He did what all Soldiers would do in the same situation.
This young man, humble and self-depreciating, gets it. What a wonderful example of the dedication, professionalism and selflessness that is embodied by the very Medal he will receive at the White House in October.
At one point in the interview, Larry Shaughnessy of CNN asked him if he was a hero. His response:
If I’m a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero. So if you think that that’s a hero, (shrug) as long as you include everyone with me.”
Staff Sergeant Giunta, I’ll say it even if you won’t. You’re a hero.