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Brian Luke Community Blogger, WGRZ-TV

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Giunta Salutes U.S. Troops' Service, Sacrifices

By Terri Moon Cronk

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2010 - Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta today refused to take sole credit for his actions in October 2007 on a remote mountainside in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, when he risked his life to save the lives of wounded comrades.

From left to right: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Army Secretary John McHugh, Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, his wife Jennifer Giunta, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston listen to Giunta's citation during his induction ceremony into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, Nov. 17, 2010. Giunta is the award's first living recipient since the Vietnam War. DOD photo by Cherie Cullen

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Standing before his friends, family and superiors after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates inducted him into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes here today, Giunta was a humble soldier.

"To have you all here at the nation's capital for an event like this, that's positive, but it is so bittersweet," the 25-year-old noncommissioned officer said. "We all have lost our friends, our loved ones, our sons, our brothers, people who are truly close to us."

Giunta said he has learned many lessons as a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team's Company B [Battle], 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. He also saluted the exploits of his Army predecessors.

"I've learned almost everything I've ever learned in the Army from the men in Battle Company," he said. "To the men in the past, to the men who have served in Vietnam ... all I could think of when I was growing up, or when I was [first] in the Army was, 'Man, if I could fill half the shoes those men left for us, I'll be doing OK for myself.' And now I'm standing here and I'm filling only half those shoes. This is just a different time. This is just a different period."

Giunta also saluted the fallen servicemembers who've sacrificed all for their country.

"To all the ones that can't be here -- not just one or two, but all of them -- 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," Giunta said. "I haven't given anything compared to those who have given everything."

Giunta said he is honored but also awed by the Medal of Honor and the induction into the Hall of Heroes with 3,400 other Americans.

"I feel the pressure on my shoulders of all these great people who gave everything and they can't be here for the handshake and they can't be here for the congratulations," he said. "But I want to say congratulations, in a public forum among my friends, among my peers, among my seniors. Thank you."

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said Giunta's squad members can attest to his quick actions in Afghanistan when he saved two fellow soldiers that night as insurgents closed in.

"From the day he joined our Army, seven years ago, Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta's leadership skills were readily apparent," Casey said. "He made sergeant in four years and was a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan by the time he was 22 years old. He is the embodiment of our warrior ethos, 'I will always put the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, and I will never leave a fallen comrade.'"

Casualties in the Medal of Honor recipient's unit "would have been far greater if not for Sal Giunta's gallantry, quick action and sacrifice," Army Secretary John M. McHugh said at the induction ceremony. "He may credit his training, he may credit his confidence in those around him, but even those who were with him that day recognize the special qualities that we know make him an American hero."

McHugh recounted what one of Giunta's fellow soldiers said about him: "'He'll say he was just doing his job, but the reality is there are very few people in the world who would do what he did that night.

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