Stars and Stripes|
WASHINGTON -- Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, a Soldier who risked his life to stop Taliban fighters from kidnapping a fallen comrade, will be the first living U.S. servicemember from either Iraq or Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor, White House officials announced Friday.
President Barack Obama spoke with Giunta on Thursday to inform him of the award and thank him for "his service and extraordinary bravery in battle."
Giunta, whose story was featured in the recently published Sebastian Junger book "War," was serving as a rifle team leader with Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment during combat operations in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley in 2007.
On Oct. 25 that year, then-Spc. Giunta's squad was ambushed by insurgents and two Soldiers were cut off from the rest. White House officials said in the initial moments of the firefight Giunta ventured out into enemy fire to pull a comrade back to cover."Everything kind of slowed down and I did everything I thought I could do, nothing more and nothing less," Giunta, now 25, told Junger.
Giunta and two other Soldiers assaulted the enemy position with grenades to move forward and link up with the two seperated Soldiers, one of whom was Sgt. Joshua Brennan. When Giunta sprinted to where to he thought Brennan would be, he saw two enemy fighters dragging him down the hill. Giunta fired his M4 and ran after them, killing one insurgent and forcing the other to drop Brennan and run away.
Army officials say Giunta provided medical aid to his comrade while the rest of his squad caught up and provided security. Brennan later died, but Giunta's actions prevented his body and equipment from falling into enemy hands.
One other Soldier died that day, and five were wounded.
"I didn't' run through fire to save a buddy," Giunta told Junger. "I ran through fire to see what was going on with him and maybe we could hide behind the same rock and shoot together. I didn't run through fire to do anything heroic or brave. I did what I believe anyone would have done."
Brennan's father told his hometown newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal, that Giunta has expressed hesitation about receiving such an honor.
"Not only did he save Josh, so that we were able to have him back and have an open coffin at the funeral, he really saved half of the platoon," he said.
No date has been set for his award ceremony.
The news comes a day after the White House announced that Staff Sgt. Robert Miller would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan in 2007.