Another incredible story. SSG Sal Giunta
The story speaks for itself.
A veteran of two tours in Afghanistan by the time he was 22 years old, SSG Sal Giunta is the embodiment of our Army’s Warrior Ethos: I will always place the mission first … I will never accept defeat … I will never quit … I will never leave a fallen comrade.
He lived that Ethos in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley on October 25th, 2007 during Operation Rock Avalanche.
On patrol at the tail end of a long operation, SPC Giunta and the rest of 1st Platoon, Battle Company, 2nd of the 503rd Airborne Infantry, traversed the treacherous Gatigal Spur in order to get into an overwatch position to provide security for the movement of other elements of the company. Despite the hardships like having to move across taxing mountainous terrain — in hostile territory — SPC Giunta and his platoon remained focused on their mission.
As they moved through the mountains, a dozen well-armed, well-coordinated insurgents initiated a fierce close ambush on the platoon — splitting the squad into two groups with heavy and effective small arms, machinegun and RPG fire … wounding and isolating SGT Joshua Brennan and SPC Franklin Eckrode who were walking point for the patrol.
SPC Giunta immediately led his team in returning fire. And, without hesitation — with rounds impacting all around him — began fighting through the ambush to reach his fallen comrades. Thinking his own Squad Leader was wounded, SPC Giunta sprang forward into a hail of enemy fire to assist – disregarding his own safety. He was hit in the chest — the round lodged in his body armor. SPC Giunta continued to move forward.
Under relentless, accurate enemy fire, SPC Giunta reached his Squad Leader, assessed his injuries and evacuated him to a covered position.
The prospect of defeat never crossed his mind.
Pinned down by numerically superior enemy forces, SPC Giunta coordinated an assault on the enemy to destroy their fire line and secure SGT Brennan and SPC Eckrode. Together, with his Squad Leader, he began throwing grenades to suppress the enemy long enough for them to move forward to their wounded comrades. SPC Giunta and his fellow Soldiers never quit.
The group reached the wounded SPC Eckrode, and began rendering medical aid. But SGT Brennan was nowhere in sight. Alone and without hesitation, SPC Giunta charged a nearby hill that moments before was an enemy fighting position and spotted two insurgents dragging SGT Brennan away. Sal immediately engaged the two – killing one and wounding the other, causing him to flee and leave SGT Brennan behind. Sprinting forward, he began providing first aid to SGT Brennan until medics arrived and brought them to safety.
Risking his life so that others would live, SPC Giunta was determined to never leave a fallen comrade.
Sal Giunta is incredibly humble — almost ashamed that he is being singularly recognized for the actions of his entire platoon, and for a battle in which two great Soldiers and close friends lost their lives (SGT Josh Brennan died of his wounds, as did SPC Hugo Mendoza, the platoon medic). He claims he is not a hero, that he only did what we ask all our Soldiers to do every day — to face a determined enemy on their ground, in the most austere conditions imaginable.
But, as his brother paratroopers will tell you to a man — Sal Giunta is a hero of the first order. Instinctively reacting with complete disregard for his own personal safety for the sake of his fallen comrades; exercising supreme poise in the face of overwhelming enemy fire; and, demonstrating a level of tactical expertise that belied his relative youth and inexperience — that’s the stuff of heroes.
We are very fortunate — as a Nation — to have Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who so cherish the values and ideals that this Nation was founded upon that they are prepared to give their lives to secure them. America’s Army, in particular, has a 235-year legacy of Service, of Sacrifice, and of Valor. Today, we are incredibly fortunate — and immensely proud — to have SSG Sal Giunta recognized with the Nation’s highest award for Valor.