First living veteran of Afghanistan, Iraq wars to get high award calls it a shared honor

By Anne Gearan, AP
Saturday, September 11, 2010

In first for Afghan war, award goes to living vet

WASHINGTON — The first living service member from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to receive the Medal of Honor said Saturday the award honors more than a dozen fellow soldiers who were part of a deadly ambush three years ago.

“What I remember and what I would like to tell people is that it was not me doing everything,” said Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, in a telephone interview from Vicenza Italy, where he now serves.

According to the Army, Giunta, 25, of Hiawatha, Iowa, exposed himself to enemy gunfire to try to save two fellow soldiers.

He will become the eighth service member to receive the Medal of Honor during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The seven previous medals were awarded posthumously.

Giunta learned of the rare honor when he got a phone call from President Barack Obama on Thursday, he said.

“My wife was with me, and she heard me say, ‘Mr. President,’ so we knew then,” Giunta told The Associated Press.

Giunta was serving as a rifle team leader with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment when an insurgent ambush split his squad into two groups on Oct. 25, 2007, in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, the White House said in a news release.

Giunta went above and beyond the call of duty when he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a fellow soldier back to cover, the White House said. He engaged the enemy again when he saw two insurgents carrying away a wounded soldier, Sgt. Joshua C. Brennan, 22, of McFarland, Wis. Giunta killed one insurgent and wounded the other before tending to Brennan, who died the next day.

“His courage and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon’s ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from enemy hands,” the White House said.

About 16 soldiers fought alongside him, Giunta said, and all did their part.

“My piece of the puzzle is what everyone is interested in right now, but it was not the only one,” Giunta said.

Giunta still serves with the same unit. The rest of his unit is deployed in Afghanistan again, but he is based in Italy in a support role.

The White House has not scheduled a ceremony to award the medal.

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