Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Most of America will go through their "normal" daily routines today oblivious to what is happening at the White House at 2:00 :PM eastern time when the ceremony begins for SSG Giunta to receive the Medal of Honor. Most of America has no idea what the Medal of Honor is and the circumstances under which it is presented.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress. It is not "won" as many often say. It is EARNED. My friend Jo wrote the following today. She is spot on, "The Medal of Honor is NOT awarded, it is EARNED. Earned by spilling blood, sweat & tears on the battlefield; for VALOR, for conspicuous GALLANTRY, for service above and BEYOND the call of DUTY. The Medal of Honor is PRESENTED to its recipient by the President IN THE NAME of Congress. And i would bet that most recipient...s of any Medal for VALOR would gladly trade it for the lives of their fallen brothers."
One of the Soldiers who served in the ROCK (173rd, 2-503) with SSG Giunta posted this on facebook:
"Giunta you may never be comfortable with the path that has been given to you. But know that you have given a voice to all of us who were there in those damn valleys who thought no one would ever know what sacrifices we made and the ultimate sacrifice that some of our brothers made. Carry the torch brother. The Rock is proud of you." David Camarillo
There have been many interviews aired and published with SSG Giunta.
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, who spent months in eastern Afghanistan with Battle Company during OEF VIII traveled to Italy for the following interview with SSG Giunta. Of all of the interviews I have watched this was the most difficult one due to SSG Giunta learning new things about that day that he had never heard before. Understandably so since there was so much going on in such a short amount of time. Also understandable so since men who are entrenched in battles such as the ambush on 25 October 2007 don't often talk about the most horrific parts.
The Sal Giunta Story from Sebastian Junger on Vimeo.
Interview after interview SSG Giunta has repeatedly said that he feels uncomfortable accepting this award for himself - that he is accepting it for all who were with him that day; those who survived and those who gave their lives for this nation, SGT Josh Brennan and SPC Hugo "Doc" Mendoza". He speaks about the fact that he has never gone into battle alone; that he always has his buddies on his right and on his left. I whole heartedly respect SSG Giunta for choosing to accept the Medal of Honor on behalf of all of those men. It is yet another testament to the Soldier and man that he is.
It seems apparent to me, from the interviews, that SSG Giunta and his wife, Jenny, would much rather not have the spotlight on them yet through this entire process they have both risen above the accolades, media attention, people coming out of nowhere claiming to be their "best friends" and a plethora of other demands on their time and lives. They are two great Americans that make me proud and to whom I look up to. I am grateful that our nation has them as an example of humility, dignity and grace under immense pressure. I pray that one day soon they will find peace and normalcy in their lives. They more than deserve that.
The official narrative for SSG Giunta's Medal of Honor reads:
On Oct. 25, 2007, Spc. Giunta’s platoon was conducting a movement to contact to interdict enemy forces on the Gatigal Spur, in order to provide over watch for 2nd and 3rd platoon’s exfil back to Combat Outpost Vimot, and the Korengal Outpost. While conducting their exfil from the platoon’s blocking position, Spc. Giunta’s platoon was ambushed by 10 to 15 enemy personnel who utilized an “L” shaped, near ambush that was within 10 meters of the platoon’s main body. The enemy fired 10 Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and three PKMs (machine guns) from the apex of the ambush and additional AK-47s from throughout the ambush line.
The enemy initiated the contact with an RPG and a burst of PKM (fire), which immediately hit and wounded two members of the lead team, Sgt. Brennan and Spc. Eckrode. Another RPG in the initial volley hit extremely close to Spc. Giunta’s position. While Staff Sgt. Gallardo moved back to his Bravo Team to get situation reports, Spc. Giunta provided covering fire by leading his team in suppressing enemy positions, assigning sectors of fire and commanding his M-203 gunner to engage close targets. While advancing toward Spc. Giunta’s team, Staff Sgt. Gallardo was struck in the helmet by an AK-47 round, which caused him to fall to the ground. Despite being under heavy fire by PKM, RPG, and small arms, Spc. Giunta immediately left his covered position in order to render aid to his squad leader. As he moved to provide assistance, Spc. Giunta was struck by two bullets; one of which impacted his chest area but was stopped by his Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (E-SAPI) plate, and one round which impacted the Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon-D (SMAW-D) rocket he was carrying across his back. Without hesitation, Spc. Giunta recovered from the impacts and ensured his squad leader was not injured. He then began bounding his team forward in an attempt to maneuver on the enemy.
Spc. Giunta and his fire team were quickly pinned down by effective enemy machine gun and small arms fire from multiple positions at close range. Spc. Giunta, along with Pfc. Clary and Staff Sgt. Gallardo, quickly prepared fragmentation grenades and continued the assault by throwing two volleys of them at enemy positions that were approximately 15 meters to their west. They then assaulted forward through those positions, secured Spc. Eckrode, and began treating his wounds. Realizing that Sgt. Brennan was missing, Pfc. Clary and Spc. Giunta continued to push forward along the enemy’s ex-filtration route, despite taking small arms fire from enemy personnel who were attempting to cover their withdrawal. Moving in the lead and rapidly closing with the enemy, despite receiving effective fire, Spc. Giunta overtook two enemy combatants attempting to drag off Sgt. Brennan, who had been incapacitated by his wounds. Spc. Giunta engaged one enemy combatant at close range and killed him, which cause the other enemy combatant to drop Sgt. Brennan and flee. Spc. Giunta then began immediate first aid on Sgt. Brennan, and also helped his squad leader to adjust security, further consolidate casualties, and prepare for Medical Evacuation operations.
Spc. Giunta’s selfless actions and personal courage were the decisive factors in changing the tide of the battle, ensuring that Sgt. Brennan was not captured by the enemy, and preventing the lead fire team from being destroyed by the enemy’s near ambush. Despite bullets impacting on and around himself, Spc. Giunta fearlessly advanced on the enemy and provided aid to his fallen comrades. His actions saved the lives of multiple paratroopers and changed the course of the battle in his platoon’s favor.
For exceptionally valorous actions during Operation Enduring Freedom VIII while assigned as a rifle team leader in Battle Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry. Spc. Giunta’s unwavering courage, aggressiveness, selfless service, and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were decisive in his platoon achieving fire superiority, defeating an enemy near ambush, and preventing the capture of a fellow paratrooper by the enemy. His actions reflect great credit upon himself, the Rock Battalion, the Bayonet Brigade Combat Team, Combined Joint Task Force-82, and the United States Army.
CBS 60 Minutes has an interview here with additional links to footage that didn't make the show.
USA Today has an article at this link with stories of people from SSG Giunta's hometown.
CNN has an interview here that also includes interviews in Afghanistan with SGT Frank Eckrode, Jr and SSG Erick Gallardo
There are many more interviews both in print and video. MANY MORE. Please take the time to find them via google or your preferred method. The men of Battle Company deserve for you to know who they are.