Salvatore Augustine Giunta (born 21 January 1985) is a former United States Army soldier and the first living person since the Vietnam War to receive the U.S. military's highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor. Giunta was cited for saving the lives of members of his squad on 25 October 2007 during the War in Afghanistan. He left the U.S. Army in June 2011.
- There were more bullets in the air than stars in the sky. A wall of bullets at every one at the same time with one crack and then a million other cracks afterwards. They're above you, in front of you, behind you, below you. They're hitting in the dirt early. They're going over your head. Just all over the place. They were close— as close as I've ever seen.
- Remarks on the 25 October 2007 battle that resulted in Giunta being awarded the Medal of Honor three years later. As quoted by Tim Hetherington in the Vanity Fair article "Medal of Honor Winner Salvatore Giunta on Bravery, Brotherhood, and the Korengal", published 11 November 2010. 
Living With Honor (2012)
- For my wife, Jennifer, and our daughter, Lillian.
- I am proud- make no mistake abut that. But even as President Obama places the medal around my neck, pride is merely one of several conflicting emotions. This whole event seems bittersweet, joyous and at the same time almost unbearably painful. I can feel the price of it all now- that little piece of fabric with the star on it, which these people are watching the president bestow on me, cost two people their lives and cost five others life-changing wounds. And here I am, with no scars, no injuries, standing up there receiving all this adulation. I honestly don't know how to handle it. But I have no choice, so I do the best I can.
- p. 3
- I've come a long way since the day they first told me I'd been recommended for the Medal of Honor. That day, all I could say was "Fuck you," because that's what I really felt. A medal? For what? My buddies died that day. There is nothing to celebrate. I did what any of my fellow soldiers would have done, got lucky, and lived through it.
- p. 3
- The president clasps the medal around my neck, and I can feel the weight of it now. We embrace for a moment- the president and me. Blinking back tears, I turn to face the audience and applause fills the room. But I know it's not for me alone. I know I am part of something bigger, something vast and still incomprehensible. I look at my mom and dad. I look at Brennan's parents, and I look at Mendoza's. And I try to communicate to Brennan and Mendoza wordlessly: This is for you... and for everyone who has fought and died. For everyone who has made the ultimate sacrifice. I am not a hero. I am just a soldier.
- p. 3-4
- Having now visited Termini Imerese, I can't help but be filled with admiration for my great-grandfather. To think of that journey- from a coastal city in Sicily to Chicago and finally to Dubuque, Iowa- well, you don't do something like that unless you have a sturdy set of balls. I can only imagine the disorientation the Giuntas must have felt while passing through the great, sweeping cornfields of eastern Iowa. But I guess they figured it was worth the risk.
- p. 11
- No point in denying who and what we are.
- p. 15
- Like most people, I can vividly recall exactly where I was when I heard the news. It was chemistry class, second period. I was a sixteen-year-old junior, wandering aimlessly through another school day, working halfheartedly on a lab assignment, trying to figure out the density of different liquids, when word filtered down to our classroom. Something about a terrible accident in New York City: a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers. Suddenly every television set in the school was lit up, and every classroom had suspended normal teaching activities to focus on this tragedy half a continent away. At that point that morning, no one knew what had happened yet. The news commentators- like everyone else- were working under the assumption that the jet had gone wildly off course and experienced some sort of catastrophic failure, resulting in a collision with one of the towers. It wasn't until the second plane ht that the unfathomable became real: This wasn't an accident- it was a terrorist attack, intentional, willful, coordinated, and almost incomprehensibly lethal. To those of us watching, it was our first view of evil.
- p. 18
- When I was sixteen years old, I thought my dad was the stupidest man I'd ever met in my entire life. I couldn't see why I had to listen to him or take his advice or follow his rules. What did we fight about? You might better ask what we didn't fight about. Every interaction was cause for antagonism and verbal jousting. Simply put, I was an idiot: drinking, hanging out with the boys, chasing girls, ignoring my schoolwork.. getting fat and lazy. My father had been a hard and diligent worker his whole life, so he naturally and understandably found my lack of initiative and my self-destructive tendencies somewhat disturbing. I didn't want to hear it, though. I figured as long as I wasn't being brought home by the cops, I wasn't doing anything wrong. And that wasn't true, of course. It's not the right way to look at life. But at that point in time, that's the way I saw things: through a very narrow and selfish prism.
- p. 21
- Every person has a first name, a middle name, and a last name. That person has a history. He has a family. He has a mother and a father, maybe a wife and a child. He has friends. Each time an American soldier dies, there is a long and powerful aftershock, rippling across continents, felt intimately by someone- maybe by many people- half a world away.
- p. 187
- All these freedoms and pleasures we enjoy as Americans were bestowed upon us, but they came at a great cost.
- p. 188
- There is luck in being an American, but there is responsibility as well. Being an American means you have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom t gather and assemble, freedom to criticize the government without fear of retribution. There are many countries in the world where acting on those impulses will get you tossed into jail or killed. So exercise those rights, but keep in mind the very simple fact that you have them only because hundreds of thousands of men and women have laid down their lives for you, stretching across parts of three centuries, from the Revolutionary War, through two world wars, and through less popular conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. And Iraq. And Afghanistan. As a kid growing up in Iowa, I didn't really get any of that. I mean, I sort of got it. I understood the connection between Independence Day and the sacrifices that went into securing that independence. Mostly, though, I was like everyone else. I liked watching fireworks and eating hot dogs off a backyard grill. Still do, in fact, preferably washed down with a few cold ones. But it means much more to me now, and I have two deployments in Afghanistan to thank for that.
- p. 188
- That was the primary conundrum when fighting in the Korengal Valley: distinguishing between the real enemy and the imagined enemy; between fighters and people who were aiding and abetting. It made a difficult war nearly impossible, and an ugly war almost indescribably brutal.
- p. 235
- Every day in the Korengal Valley held the possibility of death. The sun came up every morning and the shooting started shortly thereafter. That's just the way it was. The fact that you might have to kill someone, or that you might be killed, did not burn through your head, because that was life in the valley.
- p. 242
- When you hold a buddy in your arms and watch his skin turn gray, when you can feel his life slipping away, it's almost impossible not to walk around afterward in something of a stupor, asking yourself repeatedly: How did this happen? Why wasn't it me? But you have to let it go.
- p. 253
- People die, and sometimes there's not a damn thing you can do about it. But that doesn't make it any easier to accept.
- p. 254
- I'd be lying if I said that I adjusted quickly and easily to a life without combat. I don't think that's possible.
- p. 273
- Soldiers on the ground do not have the luxury of political opinion- it's irrelevant to their existence and their mission. They do what they are told, regardless of how crazy it sometimes seems. Soldiers do not make big decisions; they do not have choices, other than those those that are made in the blink of an eye and have life-and-death consequences. And they accept this responsibility willingly. They seek it out. They fight so that others don't have to fight.
- p. 290
- I hope my daughter grows up in a world without war, a world without hate and bloodshed and pain. But I know that's a practical impossibility. So I will make sure she understands what freedom really means, and the price paid in its name. I will encourage her to embrace some type of public service, because I think that's a healthy way to express patriotism, and to share some of the burden of a free and democratic society. Do I want her to put on a uniform and carry a gun? Do I want her to know combat, or to see the horrible things I've seen? No, of course not. What father wants that for his child? But you know what? If she chooses to join the military, I will support her one hundred percent, because I know in my heart that there is no more noble path.
- p. 290-291
- I think about my daughter often when I'm out traveling around, giving speeches, shaking hands, talking about my friends in the military. I want her to be proud of me, and to know that what I'm doing is important. I want her to know that I accept the Medal of Honor not for myself, but because it provides a forum for talking about my brothers and the job they are doing, and the sacrifices they've made. Those men and women who do the fighting- too often, they don't get to talk. I want their voices to be heard.
- p. 291
Quotes about Giunta
- Now, I’m going to go off-script here for a second and just say I really like this guy. I think anybody -- we all just get a sense of people and who they are, and when you meet Sal and you meet his family, you are just absolutely convinced that this is what America is all about.
- Staff Sergeant Giunta, repeatedly and without hesitation, you charged forward through extreme enemy fire, embodying the warrior ethos that says, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Your actions disrupted a devastating ambush before it could claim more lives. Your courage prevented the capture of an American soldier and brought that soldier back to his family. You may believe that you don’t deserve this honor, but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it. In fact, your commander specifically said in his recommendation that you lived up to the standards of the most decorated American soldier of World War II, Audie Murphy, who famously repelled an overwhelming enemy attack by himself for one simple reason: “They were killing my friends.” That’s why Salvatore Giunta risked his life for his fellow soldiers -- because they would risk their lives for him. That’s what fueled his bravery -- not just the urgent impulse to have their backs, but the absolute confidence that they had his. One of them, Sal has said -- of these young men that he was with, he said, “They are just as much of me as I am.”
- This medal today is a testament to his uncommon valor, but also to the parents and the community that raised him; the military that trained him; and all the men and women who served by his side. All of them deserve our enduring thanks and gratitude. They represent a small fraction of the American population, but they and the families who await their safe return carry far more than their fair share of our burden. They fight halfway around the globe, but they do it in hopes that our children and our grandchildren won’t have to. They are the very best part of us. They are our friends, our family, our neighbors, our classmates, our coworkers. They are why our banner still waves, our founding principles still shine, and our country -- the United States of America -- still stands as a force for good all over the world.
- The President of the United States of America, authorized by an Act of Congress, 3 March 1863, has awarded, in the name of Congress, the Medal of Honor to Specialist Salvatore Augustine Giunta, United States Army. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, on October 25, 2007. While conducting a patrol as team leader with Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, Specialist Giunta and his team were navigating through harsh terrain when they were ambushed by a well-armed and well-coordinated insurgent force. While under heavy enemy fire, Specialist Giunta immediately sprinted towards cover and engaged the enemy. Seeing that his squad leader had fallen and believing that he had been injured, Specialist Giunta exposed himself to withering enemy fire and raced towards his squad leader, helped him to cover, and administered medical aid. While administering first aid, enemy fire struck Specialist Giunta's body armor and his secondary weapon. Without regard to the ongoing fire, Specialist Giunta engaged the enemy before prepping and throwing grenades, using the explosions for cover in order to conceal his position. Attempting to reach additional wounded fellow soldiers who were separated from the squad, Specialist Giunta and his team encountered a barrage of enemy fire that forced them to the ground. The team continued forward and upon reaching the wounded soldiers, Specialist Giunta realized that another soldier was still separated from the element. Specialist Giunta then advanced forward on his own initiative. As he crested the top of a hill, he observed two insurgents carrying away an American soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other. Upon reaching the wounded soldier, he began to provide medical aid, as his squad caught up and provided security. Specialist Giunta's unwavering courage, selflessness, and decisive 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 the enemy. Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta's extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, and the United States Army.
- Giunta's Medal of Honor citation, presented verbatim in Living With Honor (2012) by Salvatore Giunta, p. 1-2