A man of honor deserves this medal

President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who rescued two members of his squad in October 2007 while fighting in the war in Afghanistan.

What sort of courage does it require to race headlong into “a wall of bullets” to rescue your comrades in arms and kill enemy fighters?

And what kind of humility does it demonstrate to gratefully accept the nation’s highest military honor from the commander in chief, only to downplay your own actions and proclaim you would quickly give up the medal for the return of your slain friends?

The answers to both those questions are found in the person of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama Tuesday — the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.

Giunta, an Iowa resident, displayed his honor when he graciously accepted the medal, even as he has talked of his fellow soldiers who deserve to share in the award.

His honor and bravery were even more apparent that day in 2007, in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, when his infantry unit was ambushed by the Taliban.

Giunta pulled one injured colleague to safety despite a furious enemy fusillade that he described as “a wall of bullets.” A short time later, he sprinted through more gunfire to rescue another soldier and friend who was being carried off by two enemy fighters. Shooting his own weapon, he killed one of the Taliban and injured the other, and carried his friend to safety.

Giunta told an interviewer this fall that he didn’t consider his actions courageous. He didn’t even have time to think of what he was doing, he said. He simply reacted, with his soldier’s training, to protect himself and his brothers in arms.

Unfortunately, his friend and another soldier caught in the ambush that day would later die, despite Giunta’s heroic efforts.

Sgt. Giunta unquestionably deserves the Medal of Honor. His commanding officers, the Pentagon and President Obama were right to present it to him.

Perhaps what is most remarkable about Sgt. Giunta, however, is that he is not some rare, Rambo-esque hero. America’s armed services are populated with hundreds of thousands of young men and women who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect this country and their colleagues.

As Giunta told a Vanity Fair writer in an interview published earlier this month, regarding the Medal of Honor: “It’s given to me, but just as much as me, every single person that I’ve been with deserves to wear it — they are just as much of me as I am. This isn’t a one-man show.”

A person of honor, to be sure. One of many in our military.


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