Monday, January 3, 2011
Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta
You may have heard of Sal Giunta, the nation's first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Viet Nam War.
On October 25, 2007, Giunta's platoon was ambushed in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. When Staff Sgt. Erik Gallardo was hit by a bullet to his helmet, Giunta leapt up, exposing himself to enemy gunfire, and rushed over to help him. After rescuing Gallardo, Giunta saw that Sgt. Josh Brennan was missing. He then raced ahead and saw that two insurgents were carrying the wounded Brennan away. Giunta shot and killed one of the insurgents; the other ran away. Giunta then carried the mortally wounded Brennan back to cover.
Giunta has been interviewed countless times since he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He's always well spoken and down to earth. Each time he says pretty much the same thing: he doesn't deserve the medal any more than any other member of his platoon, and he doesn't deserve it as much as the two who died. He frequently mentions that he wasn't even the best soldier in his platoon, and was surrounded by others who were smarter, stronger, quicker, and braver.
Could there possibly be a better representative of the Medal of Honor, of the military, or, for that matter, of the United States?
Giunta has received many invitations in the past few months. Wherever he goes, whether it's a football game or a hockey game, the David Letterman Show or Times Square on New Year's Eve, he gets a standing ovation. This is as it should be.
At the same time, he's right about one thing. There are plenty of other people in the military who probably also deserve the award, but have not received similar recognition. That underscores the fact that every last person who signs up for a combat role in the armed forces is more of a hero than any sports star, movie star, or business tycoon.
I admit I'm biased now that I have a son in the military. But I wish they'd stop using the word "hero" to describe someone who's good at his sport. That word should be reserved for someone who puts his life on the line for others.