The New York Times has done the unexpected: reported on a war hero ("Iowa Man to Receive First Non-Posthumous Medal of Honor Since Vietnam," Tom Shanker, Sept. 10, 2010).
In the most dangerous valley of the most rugged corner of eastern Afghanistan, a small rifle team of airborne soldiers fell into an insurgent ambush, a coordinated attack from three sides.
A young Army specialist, Salvatore A. Giunta, took a bullet to the chest, but was saved by the heavy plates of his body armor. Shaking off the punch from the round, he jumped up and pulled two wounded soldiers to safety, grabbed hand grenades and ran up the trail to where his squad mates had been patrolling.
There, he saw a chilling image: Two fighters hauling one of his American comrades into the forest. Specialist Giunta hurled his grenades and emptied the clip in his automatic rifle, forcing the enemy to drop the wounded soldier. Still taking fire, he provided cover and comfort to his mortally wounded teammate until help arrived.
Sergeant Giunta has a humble hero's perspective of the matter.
“I entered the Army when I was 18, and I’m 25 now. I became a man in the Army,” he said. “That night I learned a lot — and after that night I learned even more. This respect that people are giving to me? This was one moment. In my battalion, I am mediocre at best. This shows how great the rest of them are.”
He is from Hiawatha, Iowa. He is married and presently stationed in Italy.