Don’t call Sal Giunta a hero.
If you do, chances are he’ll shake his head and come up with a list of reasons why he’s not.
When it comes to our nation’s highest award for valor in combat, however, Giunta, 27, is a bona fide American war hero — a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
President Barack Obama clasped the medal around Giunta’s neck in November 2010, when Giunta was a staff sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, headquartered in Italy.
Giunta was awarded the nation’s highest award for actions when his squad was ambushed in Afghanistan:
“While under heavy enemy fire, Specialist Giunta immediately sprinted towards cover and engaged the enemy,” according to Giunta’s Medal of Honor citation. “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.”
Later in the battle, Giunta ran ahead to help another wounded soldier, and “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,” the citation stated.
All told, Giunta showed “extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty,” according to the citation.
While that relatively small battle in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley might make for a great story on its own, Giunta’s new book, “Living with Honor,” spans a few years before and after that fateful day on Oct. 25, 2007.
The 294-page memoir, which went on sale nationwide Dec. 4, covers Giunta’s life before the Army, as an indifferent teenager until after he left the Army in 2011. Most of the book — which Giunta wrote with the help of Joe Layden, a journalist and author of more than 30 books — is about Giunta’s seven years in the Army.
His decision to opt out of Ranger school:
“After two weeks at RIP Hold (a waiting period prior to beginning the Ranger Indoctrination Program), with no indication that placement in the actual indoctrination program was imminent, I’d had enough. I had come here to be a Ranger, not a glorified kitchen b----,” Giunta writes in the book.
His first firefight:
“So for a few moments, as the guns popped around us, I just stood there like an idiot, taking it all in. ‘Incoming!’ someone shouted. ‘They’re shooting! Get the f--- down!”
The aftermath of an IED:
“So how do you put into words the feeling of walking around a scene like that, picking up pieces of American soldiers, people you have known by name?”
Giunta also discusses the DUI he was charged with in Italy, a mistake that led to a demotion, from E-4 to E-1:
“While I might have been upset at the time, I look back on it now and realize I didn’t have a leg to stand on in terms of defense. I did the crime, and they made certain I did the time.”
But for the most part, as Giunta said last week, the book is about the soldiers he knew, worked with and bled with.
“The book is my opportunity to kind of highlight them,” said Giunta, who was in South Texas deer hunting last week. He resides in Colorado with his wife, Jen, and daughter.
While the Medal of Honor has garnered Giunta a lot of attention, he said he set out to write the book to recognize his Army buddies who fought just as hard as he did and went through the same harrowing experiences.
“It kind of pays them tribute,” Giunta said, adding he was nervous about how his old Army buddies and other active-duty soldiers would relate to the book.
Thus far, it’s a hit.
“I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback,’ Giunta said, including from other soldiers he served with.
At Fort Hood
Giunta will be at the Clear Creek Main Exchange from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday signing copies of “Living with Honor” as part of his book tour. He’s already held book-signing events at West Point, N.Y., Fort Carson, Colo., New York City and other locations.
This Saturday’s event won’t be Giunta’s first time at Fort Hood. He’s been on post three other times, as part of Ride 2 Recovery, a bicycling program for wounded veterans.