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Iowa soldier honored by President

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WASHINGTON (KWWL) - Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta of Hiawatha will be awarded the Medal of Honor for acts of gallantry at the risk of his life that went above and beyond the call of duty.

Sergeant Giunta would be the first living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.

According to the White House, then-Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta distinguished himself by acts of gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifle team leader with Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan on Oct. 25, 2007. 

As a 22-year-old Army Specialist serving in Afghanistan in 2007, Giunta was among eight paratroopers ambushed by a band of Taliban fighters. Two of the paratroopers died in the attack, and most suffered serious injuries. Members of Giunta's unit and Army officials say the death toll would have been much higher if not for Giunta's bravery.

Giunta threw grenades and returned fire as he rescued his comrades and fought off Taliban fighters attempting to take one of the wounded American soldiers as a hostage.  The story is told in the book "War" written by Sebastian Junger starting on page 115.

Below is the description of the event released by the White House:

"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. 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. His courage and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon's ability defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American paratrooper from enemy hands."

Giunta, now 25, serves as a staff sergeant based in Italy with Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He is from Hiawatha and graduated from Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids. Giunta's wife, Jennifer is from Dubuque.

The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military award, given in recognition of distinguished gallantry during hostile action. It is presented by the President of the United States in the name of Congress. The last Iowan to receive the Medal of Honor was Colonel George Day of Sioux City. He was honored in 1976 for his service in the Vietnam War.

The date and time of the ceremony honoring Staff Sergeant Giunta will be released at a later date by the White House. President Obama called Staff Sergeant Giunta on Thursday to tell him about the honor.

 

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