Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Army sergeant is awarded Medal of Honor for valor in Afghanistan

Ambushed in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta stepped into a "wall of bullets" and chased down two Taliban fighters who were carrying his mortally wounded friend away.

Three years after acts of battlefield bravery, Giunta, 25, on Tuesday became the first living service member from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to receive the nation's top military award, the Medal of Honor. He's the first living recipient in nearly 40 years.

Far from the perilous ridge where his unit was attacked on a moonlit night in October 2007, Giunta stood in the glittering White House East Room, in the company of military brass, past Medal of Honor winners, his surviving comrades and families as President Barack Obama hung the blue ribbon cradling the medal around Giunta's neck.

"I'm going to go off script here and just say, 'I really like this guy,' " Obama said, calling him "a soldier as humble as he is heroic."

"When you meet Sal and you meet his family, you are just absolutely convinced that this is what America is all about, and it just makes you proud."

For Giunta, the tribute was bittersweet. It was a bloody day in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley and the two soldiers he rescued later died. "Although this is so positive, I would give this back in a second to have my friends with me right now," the Hiawatha, Iowa, native said afterward on the rain-soaked White House driveway.

Obama said Giunta "charged headlong into the wall of bullets." The sergeant first pulled a soldier who had been struck in the helmet to safety, then sprinted ahead to find two Taliban fighters dragging away the stricken Sgt. Joshua C. Brennan.

"Sal never broke stride," Obama said. "He leapt forward. He took aim. He killed one of the insurgents and wounded the other, who ran off."

As bullets rained, Giunta dragged Brennan by his vest to cover and worked feverishly to stop the bleeding until the wounded Americans were flown from the ridge. Brennan and another platoon member, medic Hugo V. Mendoza, died. Five were wounded.

Forty-two Americans have died in Korengal Valley, a deadly sliver of eastern Afghanistan that insurgents use to move weapons and fighters from Pakistan. U.S. troops pulled out of the perilous valley and other remote areas about seven months ago after commanders decided it was best to use forces to protect civilian population centers.

Army sergeant is awarded Medal of Honor for valor in Afghanistan 11/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 8:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  2. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers

    Crime

    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  4. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)

    War

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.
  5. Trump awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Army medic (w/video)

    Military

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday turned a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Vietnam-era Army medic who risked his life to help wounded comrades into a mini homework tutorial for the boy and girl who came to watch their grandfather be enshrined "into the history of our nation."

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23:  Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary Rose (L) receives a standing ovation after being awarded the Medal of Honor by U.S. President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rose, 69, is being recognized for risking his life while serving as a medic with the 5th Special Force Group and the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group during ‘Operation Tailwind’ in September 1970. Ignoring his own injuries, Rose helped treat 50 soldiers over four days when his unit joined local fighters to attack North Vietnamese forces in Laos - officially off limits for combat at the time.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 775062921