|SSG Salvatore Giuna|
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Medal of Honor Goes to Living Soldier; First Since Vietnam
(Sept. 10) -- The White House announced today that President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration, to an Army sergeant who will be the first living soldier to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.
The president personally called Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, an Army specialist in Afghanistan at the time the events took place, to let him know of the decision, the White House said in a statement. He was awarded the medal for placing his life in danger when he and fellow paratroopers were ambushed by the Taliban in 2007.
"When an insurgent force ambush split Specialist Giunta's squad into two groups, he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a comrade back to cover," the White House statement about the award reads. "Later, while engaging the enemy and attempting to link up with the rest of his squad, Specialist Giunta noticed two insurgents carrying away a fellow soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other, and provided medical aid to his wounded comrade while the rest of his squad caught up and provided security."
Awarding the Medal of Honor to Giunta, 25, carries symbolic weight beyond the individual decision to award it to a living service member. Only a handful of the medals have been awarded, even posthumously, to service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A more detailed description of Giunta's heroic actions has been pieced together through interviews with him and other soldiers present that day in 2007, when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.
Giunta "was knocked flat by the gunfire; luckily, a well-aimed round failed to penetrate his armored chest plate," The Washington Post reports. "As the paratroopers tried to gather their senses and scramble for a shred of cover, Giunta reacted instinctively, running straight into the teeth of the ambush to aid three wounded soldiers, one by one, who had been separated from the others."
A New York Times Magazine article, which provided a blow-by-blow description of the ambush and ensuing battle, described Giunta as a "quiet Iowan lofted into a heroism he didn't want."
Fewer than 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded since 1863.
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Job well done, soldier.....!
Charles M. Grist