Many people receive this decoration posthumously. The great thing about this instance, is that SSG Giunta is alive to recount his experiences.
SSG Sal Giunta, a paratrooper w/ the 173rd Airborne, is likely to be the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. He earned this by charging a group of Taliban who were trying to make off with a wounded comrade in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. His actions broke the Taliban’s attack and allowed him to regain control of SGT Josh Brennan. He also saved the lives of the many other members of his unit who had been caught in a near ambush by the Taliban. Giunta didn’t hesitate one second before advancing on his own to ensure the enemy would never take one of ours, but sadly Josh Brennan was too badly wounded too survive. His cousin PVT Joe Brennan recently graduated airborne school and has joined the same unit proudly carrying on Josh’s memory.
The 2nd Battalion (Airborne) 503rd Infantry Regiment “The Rock” deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 for 15 months of the most intense combat any US unit has faced in this war. During the time they spent on the border with Pakistan, this one battalion averaged three troops in contact incidents every day. They were right in the path of the Taliban’s major push back into Afghanistan after years of resting, recruiting and retraining in their safe havens in Pakistan. The Rock proudly upheld the tradition of our airborne forces in some of the most inhospitable terrain on Earth. SSG Giunta was a member of Battle Company and the exploits of some of his compatriots in that unit are vividly chronicled in Sebastian Junger’s book “War” and the documentary “Restrepo” (in theaters now) he made with Tim Hetherington. The two spent a total of five months with a platoon from Battle Company and the book and film show the tremendous challenges these men faced and overcame.
Giunta was a Specialist when the action occurred and his squad was hit with a well-planned ambush at extremely close range. He was the trail team leader and Josh Brennan was the lead. When the fighting started Brennan was severely wounded, their squad leader was knocked to the ground, their medic was killed and several others were wounded. Giunta immediately began maneuvering toward the enemy throwing grenades and eventually charging them when he saw two of them hauling Josh away. He emptied a magazine killing one and wounding the other and grabbed Brennan telling Josh to stay with him so that he would get a chance to tell heroic stories. They did get Brennan on a medevac chopper, but unfortunately his wounds were too severe and he didn’t survive. But Giunta’s actions stopped the Taliban from taking him and by running headlong at the enemy he disrupted the ambush. SSG Giunta’s story can be read in Junger’s book “War” starting on page 115.
HOOAH! Well done, SSG Guinta! Duty, Honor, Country.