Obama awards Army Staff Sgt. Giunta a Medal of Honor for valor in Afghanistan

Salvatore Giunta, who stepped into the line of fire to help comrades on the Afghan battlefield, received the Medal of Honor -- the nation's top military award -- on Tuesday.
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 5:03 PM

In an emotional ceremony Tuesday, President Obama presented a Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award for valor, to an Army sergeant who ran into enemy fire to aid fellow soldiers during an ambush in eastern Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta became the first living service member to receive the honor for action during any war since Vietnam.

Obama called Giunta "a soldier as humble as he is heroic."

"He'll tell you that he didn't do anything special, that he was just doing his job, that any of his brothers in the unit would do the same thing," Obama said during the ceremony in the White House's East Room. "In fact, he just lived up to what his team leader instructed him to do years before: 'You do everything you can.' "

Giunta, now 25, was serving as an Army specialist in the Korengal Valley in October 2007 when insurgents attacked his unit, splitting it into two. Giunta was shot in the chest but was saved by his body armor.

He went on to rescue other members of his company, including a soldier who had been captured by insurgents. Two paratroopers died in the attack.

"It had been as intense and violent a firefight as any soldier will experience," Obama said. "By the time it was finished, every member of First Platoon had shrapnel or a bullet hole in their gear."

The ceremony, which followed the formal announcement of the honor in September, was attended by members of Giunta's family and his unit, as well as top military officials, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Other Medal of Honor recipients were also present.

Giunta did not speak during the ceremony. Afterward, however, he told reporters: "I would give this back in a second to have my friends with me right now."

Giunta, a native of Hiawatha, Iowa, who served two tours in Afghanistan, is now stationed in Italy. He has also been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

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