During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with
Salvatore Giunta’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“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.”
The wounded soldier was Sgt. Joshua Brennan, one of Giunta’s closest friends. Brennan was alive when his comrades placed him on the medevac but he died before reaching base. Specialist Hugo Mendoza was also killed in the firefight.
Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama on Nov. 16, 2010. He was the War on Terror’s first living recipient of the medal.
After the ceremony, Giunta called the honor “bittersweet.”
“Because of this day, I lost two dear friends of mine,” he said. “I would give this back in a second to have those friends here with me now.”
Seven years later, on July 6, 2017, Giunta gave his Medal of Honor to his unit, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, during a ceremony in Vicenza, Italy, marking a new memorial to the brigade’s 18 Medal of Honor recipients. Two fought in World War II, 13 in Vietnam, and three in Afghanistan.
“I want this to stay in Vicenza, Italy, with the 173rd, with the men and women who earn this every single day through their selflessness and sacrifice,” Giunta said.