Obama to Award Medal of Honor to Afghan War Vet
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2010 The Medal of Honor will be awarded for the first time to a living veteran of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, White House officials announced today in a written statement.
Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta received a phone call from President Barack Obama yesterday, thanking him for his service. Obama informed the infantryman that he would receive the nation’s highest award for his service and extraordinary bravery in battle, the statement said.
The event occurred Oct. 25, 2007, in eastern Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. Giunta was a specialist at the time and rifle team leader. He served in Company B, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based out of Vicenza, Italy.
Giunta overcame being separated from his unit, evaded potential enemy captors and risked his life to rescue two fellow soldiers. His unit was divided during the gun battle. One fellow soldier was exposed to enemy fire when Giunta left his cover to pull the soldier to safety.
The enemy continued to engage Giunta and the soldier as they worked to link up with their squad. During the movement, Giunta noticed two insurgents carrying the second soldier, trying to take him captive.
Giunta immediately engaged the combatants, killing one and wounding another. He provided medical aid to the soldier while others provided security. The soldier eventually died of his wounds, but Giunta’s actions prevented him from staying in enemy hands.
Giunta, 25, is a native of Iowa, and enlisted in the Army in November 2003. He deployed twice to Afghanistan, and currently is stationed in Vicenza.
The Medal of Honor is the highest U.S. military decoration. Six servicemembers have received the Medal of Honor – all posthumously – since the global war on terror began following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
On Oct. 6, 2010, Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, who was 24 years old when he died, will become the seventh servicemember serving in the global war on terror to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously. Miller will receive the award for his heroic actions in Barikowt, Afghanistan, on Jan. 25, 2008.
Giunta will become the eighth Medal of Honor recipient for actions in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and the only Iraq and Afghanistan veteran to receive the award while alive. The White House statement did not say when Giunta will receive his medal.