President Awards Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sergeant

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma pre­sent­ed the Medal of Hon­or today to the first liv­ing ser­vice­mem­ber to receive the dis­tinc­tion for ser­vice in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Dur­ing a White House cer­e­mo­ny, the com­man­der in chief of what he called “the finest mil­i­tary that the world has ever known” award­ed the medal to Army Staff Sgt. Sal­va­tore A. Giun­ta for hero­ic action in Afghanistan’s Koren­gal Val­ley on Oct. 25, 2007.

“Since the end of the Viet­nam War, the Medal of Hon­or has been award­ed nine times for con­spic­u­ous gal­lantry in an ongo­ing or recent con­flict. Sad­ly, our nation has been unable to present this dec­o­ra­tion to the recip­i­ents them­selves, because each gave his life, his last full mea­sure of devo­tion, for his coun­try,” Oba­ma said.

“Today, there­fore, marks the first time in near­ly 40 years that the recip­i­ent of the Medal of Hon­or for an ongo­ing con­flict has been able to come to the White House and accept this recog­ni­tion in per­son,” the pres­i­dent said.

The Medal of Hon­or is the high­est mil­i­tary award a ser­vice­mem­ber can receive for val­or in action against a com­bat­ant force. Giunta’s Medal of Hon­or is the eighth award­ed to troops serv­ing in Iraq or Afghanistan. The pre­vi­ous sev­en awards all have been posthu­mous.

“It is my priv­i­lege to present our nation’s high­est mil­i­tary dec­o­ra­tion … to a sol­dier as hum­ble as he is hero­ic,” the pres­i­dent said. “I’m going to go off script here for a sec­ond and just say, ‘I real­ly like this guy.’ ”

Cheers and applause fol­lowed.

“When you meet Sal and you meet his fam­i­ly,” Oba­ma con­tin­ued, “you are just absolute­ly con­vinced that this is what Amer­i­ca is all about. So this is a joy­ous occa­sion for me.” Dur­ing Giunta’s first of two tours in Afghanistan, his team leader gave him a piece of advice, Oba­ma said: “You’ve just got to try to do every­thing you can when it’s your time to do it.”

The pres­i­dent then described the events that led to today’s medal pre­sen­ta­tion.

“He was a spe­cial­ist then, just 22 years old. Sal and his pla­toon were sev­er­al days into a mis­sion in the Koren­gal Val­ley, the most dan­ger­ous val­ley in north­east Afghanistan,” Oba­ma said.

Giun­ta was serv­ing as a rifle team leader with the 173rd Air­borne Brigade Com­bat Team’s Com­pa­ny B, 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 503rd Infantry Reg­i­ment. That Octo­ber evening, his squad ran into an insur­gent ambush.

The platoon’s sol­diers had spent the day in an over­watch posi­tion and were head­ing back to their base camp. Giunta’s squad moved out first and came under ene­my fire. “It was an ambush so close that the cracks of the guns and the whiz of the bul­lets were simul­ta­ne­ous,” the pres­i­dent said. “The Apache gun­ships over­head saw it all, but could­n’t engage with the ene­my so close to our sol­diers.”

When the ambush split Giunta’s squad into two groups, he exposed him­self to ene­my fire to pull a squad mate back to cov­er. Lat­er, while return­ing fire and attempt­ing to link up with the rest of his squad, Giun­ta saw two insur­gents car­ry­ing away a wound­ed fel­low sol­dier, Sgt. Joshua C. Bren­nan.

“Sal nev­er broke stride,” Oba­ma said. “He leapt for­ward, he took aim, he killed one of the insur­gents and wound­ed the oth­er, who ran off. Sal found his friend alive, but bad­ly wound­ed. He had saved him from the ene­my. Now he had to try to save his life.”

Giun­ta pro­vid­ed med­ical aid to his wound­ed com­rade while the rest of his squad caught up and pro­vid­ed secu­ri­ty. Bren­nan, 22, from McFar­land, Wis., died the next day dur­ing surgery. A medic, Spc. Hugo V. Men­doza, 29, of Glen­dale, Ariz., also died.

“It had been as intense and vio­lent a fire­fight as any sol­dier will expe­ri­ence,” the pres­i­dent said. “By the time it was fin­ished, every mem­ber of first pla­toon had shrap­nel or a bul­let hole in their gear. Five were wound­ed, and two gave their lives.”

Oba­ma said Giun­ta is a “low-key guy” who does­n’t seek the lime­light.

“Your actions dis­rupt­ed a dev­as­tat­ing ambush before it could claim more lives,” the pres­i­dent said to Giun­ta. “Your courage pre­vent­ed the cap­ture of an Amer­i­can sol­dier and brought that sol­dier back to his fam­i­ly. You may believe you don’t deserve this hon­or, but it was your fel­low sol­diers who rec­om­mend­ed you for it.”

Oba­ma asked mem­bers of Giunta’s team from that day who were present at the cer­e­mo­ny to stand and be rec­og­nized.

“Gen­tle­men, thank you for your ser­vice,” Oba­ma said. “We’re all in your debt, and I’m proud to be your com­man­der in chief.”

America’s high­ly trained and bat­tle-hard­ened ser­vice­mem­bers all have one thing in com­mon, Oba­ma said: they vol­un­teer.

“In an era when it’s nev­er been more tempt­ing to chase per­son­al ambi­tion or nar­row self-inter­est, they chose the oppo­site,” he said. “For the bet­ter part of a decade, they have endured tour after tour in dis­tant and dif­fi­cult places. They have pro­tect­ed us from dan­ger. They have giv­en oth­ers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to earn a bet­ter and more secure life.” Oba­ma quot­ed some­thing Giun­ta said short­ly after he learned he would receive the Medal of Hon­or.

“ ‘If I’m a hero,’ Sal has said, ‘Then every man who stands around me, every woman in the mil­i­tary, every per­son who defends this coun­try is.’ And he’s right,” the pres­i­dent said. “This medal today is a tes­ta­ment to his uncom­mon val­or, but also to the par­ents and the com­mu­ni­ty that raised him, the mil­i­tary that trained him, and all the men and women who served by his side.”

Today’s ser­vice­mem­bers rep­re­sent a small frac­tion of the nation’s pop­u­la­tion, Oba­ma said.

“But they and the fam­i­lies who await their safe return car­ry far more than their fair share of our bur­den. They do it in hopes that our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren won’t have to,” he said. “They are the very best part of us. … They are why our ban­ner still waves, our found­ing prin­ci­ples still shine. They are why our coun­try, the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, still stands as a force for good all over the world.”

The pres­i­dent stood beside the staff sergeant as the Medal of Hon­or cita­tion was read, and then fas­tened the dis­tinc­tive blue rib­bon sus­pend­ing the medal around Giunta’s neck.

Giun­ta stood at atten­tion as the crowd applaud­ed and cheered. Final­ly, when the clap­ping con­tin­ued with­out abat­ing, the young man smiled.

Giun­ta was born Jan. 21, 1985, in Clin­ton, Iowa, and grew up in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha, Iowa. His par­ents, Steven and Rose­mary Giun­ta, live in Hiawatha. He has a younger broth­er, Mario, and a younger sis­ter, Katie.

Giun­ta enlist­ed in the Army in Novem­ber 2003, and com­plet­ed basic and infantry train­ing at Fort Ben­ning, Ga. He mar­ried Jen­nifer Lynn Mueller, a native of Dubuque, Iowa, in Octo­ber 2009.

Giun­ta com­plet­ed two com­bat tours in Afghanistan with the 173rd, from March 2005 to March 2006 and from May 2007 to August 2008. He cur­rent­ly is sta­tioned at the unit’s home base near Vicen­za, Italy, while the brigade is once more deployed to Afghanistan.

Giunta’s wife, par­ents and sib­lings accom­pa­nied him to the White House for today’s medal pre­sen­ta­tion.

Also attend­ing today’s cer­e­mo­ny were First Lady Michelle Oba­ma, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, mem­bers of Con­gress, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Army Sec­re­tary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr.

Here is the text of Giunta’s Medal of Hon­or cita­tion:

The Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, autho­rized by Act of Con­gress, March 3, 1863, has award­ed, in the name of Con­gress, the Medal of Hon­or to Spe­cial­ist Sal­va­tore A. Giun­ta, Unit­ed States Army. For con­spic­u­ous gal­lantry and intre­pid­i­ty at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Spe­cial­ist Sal­va­tore A. Giun­ta dis­tin­guished him­self con­spic­u­ous­ly by gal­lantry and intre­pid­i­ty at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed ene­my in the Koren­gal Val­ley, Afghanistan, on Octo­ber 25, 2007.

While con­duct­ing a patrol as team leader with Com­pa­ny B, 2d Bat­tal­ion (Air­borne), 503d Infantry Reg­i­ment, Spe­cial­ist Giun­ta and his team were nav­i­gat­ing through harsh ter­rain when they were ambushed by a well-armed and well-coor­di­nat­ed insur­gent force. While under heavy ene­my fire, Spe­cial­ist Giun­ta imme­di­ate­ly sprint­ed towards cov­er and engaged the ene­my.

See­ing that his squad leader had fall­en and believ­ing that he had been injured, Spe­cial­ist Giun­ta exposed him­self to with­er­ing ene­my fire and raced towards his squad leader, helped him to cov­er, and admin­is­tered med­ical aid. While admin­is­ter­ing first aid, ene­my fire struck Spe­cial­ist Giunta’s body armor and his sec­ondary weapon.

With­out regard to the ongo­ing fire, Spe­cial­ist Giun­ta engaged the ene­my before prep­ping and throw­ing grenades, using the explo­sions for cov­er in order to con­ceal his posi­tion.

Attempt­ing to reach addi­tion­al wound­ed fel­low sol­diers who were sep­a­rat­ed from the squad, Spe­cial­ist Giun­ta and his team encoun­tered a bar­rage of ene­my fire that forced them to the ground. The team con­tin­ued for­ward and upon reach­ing the wound­ed sol­diers, Spe­cial­ist Giun­ta real­ized that anoth­er sol­dier was still sep­a­rat­ed from the ele­ment.

Spe­cial­ist Giun­ta then advanced for­ward on his own ini­tia­tive. As he crest­ed the top of a hill, he observed two insur­gents car­ry­ing away an Amer­i­can sol­dier. He imme­di­ate­ly engaged the ene­my, killing one and wound­ing the oth­er. Upon reach­ing the wound­ed sol­dier, he began to pro­vide med­ical aid, as his squad caught up and pro­vid­ed secu­ri­ty.

Spe­cial­ist Giunta’s unwa­ver­ing courage, self­less­ness, and deci­sive 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 the ene­my. Spe­cial­ist Sal­va­tore A. Giunta’s extra­or­di­nary hero­ism and self­less­ness above and beyond the call of duty are in keep­ing with the high­est tra­di­tions of mil­i­tary ser­vice and reflect great cred­it upon him­self, Com­pa­ny B, 2d Bat­tal­ion (Air­borne), 503rd Infantry Reg­i­ment, and the Unit­ed States Army.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →