b. 21/01/1985 Clinton, Iowa.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 25/10/2007 Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.
Giunta was born Jan. 21, 1985, and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was the oldest of three children in an Italian-American family. In 2003, Giunta, then 17, saw a recruitment commercial while working at a sandwich restaurant, and he decided to enlist in the Army. He went to basic training and was assigned to the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy, in May 2004.
During his first yearlong combat deployment to Afghanistan in March 2005, Giunta was shot in the leg and saw four fellow soldiers die after a roadside bomb went off. A little more than a year after returning from that deployment, Giunta’s unit was sent back to Afghanistan. Months into his second deployment, the 22-year-old then-specialist was acting as B Company, 1st Platoon’s rifle team leader during a multiday combat mission called Operation Rock Avalanche. On October 25, 2007, the platoon was on a night patrol in the Korengal Valley, the most dangerous valley in northeastern Afghanistan. The soldiers were going single-file down a steep, rocky crest when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters, separating them from the unit’s two other platoons.
Giunta quickly ran for cover and started to fire back when he saw his squad leader get hit in the helmet and go down. Giunta ran toward the injured man, dodging gunfire to reach him and make sure he was OK. In the process, Giunta was hit twice – one bullet hit his body armor, and the other splintered a gun strapped to his back.
Despite the close call, Giunta continued to fire back and started throwing grenades so he and other soldiers could slowly move forward to reach their wounded comrades. When they made it to the injured men, Giunta realized the point man of the platoon – his best friend, Sgt. Josh Brennan – was missing. So, he kept going forward on his own.
When Giunta reached the top of the hill, he saw two Taliban insurgents attempting to carry a severely wounded Brennan away. Giunta didn’t hesitate and went after them, killing one insurgent and wounding the other, who ran away. When Giunta got to Brennan, he pulled his friend to cover and started giving him aid as the squad caught up to provide security. Giunta kept Brennan alive until he was evacuated off the ridge about a half hour later, but Brennan died the next day. Meanwhile, American airpower was able to help in staving off the insurgent attack. Giunta’s platoon then continued on its mission, despite losing five men to injuries and dealing with the apparent deaths of Brennan and Spc. Hugo V. Mendoza.
Two days later, Giunta learned he was being recommended for the Medal of Honor. Following the recommendation, Giunta became the first living Medal of Honor recipient in 40 years.
On November 16, 2010, 25-year-old Giunta received the nation’s highest honor at a White House ceremony attended by many of the men with whom he had served, becoming the first living Medal of Honor recipient to receive the honor since the Vietnam War. ”Salvatore Giunta risked his life for his fellow soldiers because they would risk their lives for him,” President Barack Obama said during the ceremony. ”That’s what fueled his bravery — not just the urgent impulse to have their backs, but the absolute confidence that they had his.”
Giunta insisted he just did what any good soldier would do. In July 2017, he gave his medal to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team during a ceremony in Vicenza, saying he wanted it to remain with them. ”I’m not here because I’m a great soldier,” Giunta said at the ceremony. ”I’m here because I served with great soldiers.” Giunta left the Army in 2011 and published an autobiography called ”Living With Honor” in 2012. He then began a business degree at Colorado State University and lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their two children.
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), 503d Infantry Regiment, and the United States Army.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: 173RD AIRBORNE BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS, VICENZA, ITALY.