Giunta Inducted Into Pentagon Hall Of Heroes
(November 18, 2010)
Secretary of Defense
Robert M. Gates presents Staff Sgt. Salvatore
“Sal” Giunta with a Medal of Honor flag during a
Hall of Heroes ceremony at the Pentagon Nov. 17,
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 17, 2010)
Top DOD and Army officials inducted Staff Sgt.
Salvatore "Sal" Giunta of the 173rd Airborne
Brigade Combat Team into the Pentagon Hall of
Heroes Wednesday, making him the first
active-duty servicemember added to the hallowed
chamber in a generation.
Giunta's name was enshrined on a plaque that
will hang in the Pentagon hallway commemorating
Medal of Honor recipients, and Secretary of
Defense Robert M. Gates presented Giunta with a
Medal of Honor flag, while Secretary of the Army
John McHugh gave him a framed photo and citation
during the ceremony.
"While we can never fail or forget to honor the
fallen, we also need living heroes - men and
women who overcame every fear and every obstacle - to
inspire, to teach, and to ennoble us
by what they have done," Gates said. "Heroes like Sal
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., chief of staff of the Army, noted
that of the 389 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who
have received the Medal of Honor since World War II -
including 15 other paratroopers from the 173rd - only one
third have received it in person.|
"This is an incredible occasion," McHugh told the
standing-room-only crowd that included Giunta's battle
buddies from the 173rd and past Medal of Honor recipients.
"All of us are humbled by this experience and
honored to be in the company of those who have
joined you here today, living and past, who have
preceded you in the company and memory and
stories of all the heroes who have written in
their blood and in their sacrifice, the history
and the freedom of these great United States,"
Giunta, then a specialist, was on his second
deployment to Afghanistan with 1st Platoon,
Battle Company, 173rd ABCT, to the remote and
dangerous Korengal Valley on Oct. 25, 2007.
Nicknamed the "Valley of Death," it is located
near the Pakistan border and was home to some of
the bloodiest fighting of the war, including the
L-shaped ambush that cut Giunta's
Secretary of the Army
John McHugh presents Staff Sgt. Salvatore “Sal”
Giunta with a framed copy of Giunta's Medal of
Honor citation for his actions in the Korengal
Valley, Afghanistan, during a Hall of Heroes
ceremony at the Pentagon Nov. 17, 2010 while
Giunta's wife Jennifer looks on. On Oct. 25,
2007, Giunta single-handedly rescued a wounded
buddy from being kidnapped by two enemy
platoon in half and left Sgt. Joshua Brennan and Spc.
Franklin Eckrode injured and lying in the open.
During the fierce fighting that followed, Giunta's squad leader,
Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo, took a round in the helmet and fell to
the ground, stunned. Believing he had been injured or killed, Giunta
ran through heavy fire to help him, taking two enemy bullets in his
own equipment in the process. |
Together with Spc. Kaleb Casey and Pfc. Garret Clary, the two men
threw grenades and ran forward in the cover of the explosions until
they reached Eckrode, who was injured, but had continued to fire his
weapon until it jammed.
Brennan was missing, however, and as Giunta crested a hill, looking
for him - figuring they could shoot together - he was stunned to see
the outline of two enemy fighters dragging Brennan away from the
battle. "It didn't make sense," he remembered.
Yelling, but without waiting for help, Giunta charged alone through
the battle that was still going on around him and fired the 15 or 20
rounds left in his M4, killing one insurgent and wounding the other.
And while bullets continued to whiz around them, he and Gallardo
desperately went to Brennan's aide, even cutting apart their own
clothing in an effort to stop the bleeding from the gunshot and
shrapnel wounds that covered his body. But Brennan later died in
surgery and the platoon's beloved medic, Spc. "Doc" Hugo Mendoza,
was also killed during the battle.
"To all the ones who can't be here, not just one or two - not just
from the 173rd, not just from Battle Company, but from all services,
from the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines, the Coast
Guard, the National Guard, the Reserves -- everyone who has ever
given so much more than I ever know, I want to say 'Thank you' right
now to those men and those women because without them, I'm nothing,"
"I'm nothing. I haven't given anything compared to those who have
given everything," he said during the ceremony, after explaining it
was his toughest crowd yet and visibly wiping away a tear.
They're the real heroes, he's said in interviews. He only did what
he was trained to do, what anyone else would have done.
"What a great statement of the Ethos that Sal lives by and that
binds our Army together after nine years at war," Casey said. "And,
Sal, I just say that anyone might not have done what you did, but
maybe just anyone who happened to be an American paratrooper."
"Sergeant, your modesty and your humility, together with your valor,
truly set you apart," Gates added. "Though you call yourself, and I
quote 'mediocre,' you are clearly exceptional, even amongst the
fellow warriors you so graciously extol. But more importantly, you
are a living example, a reminder to America that there are heroes
-modern heroes that live and walk amongst us, heroes who are still
fighting and dying to protect us every day."
By Elizabeth M. Collins|
National Guard Patriot Academy
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