It is difficult to find in life anything like the unity, the bond, the sacrifice between soldiers on the battle field. However else you might feel about military efforts conducted throughout the world, you can take nothing away from the courage of
these warriors except inspiration...perhaps awe.
Sal's story goes back to what was in recent years called by some "Our Forgotten War." While serving with his brigade, the Army's 173rd Airborne, in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, Sal ran into intense fire to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. They'd slept in ditches for five nights in a row; this was the final day of the offensive, to re-take the plateau, 8,000 feet in the mountains.
He had no reason to believe he would survive. The thought of those fallen men left to die led him to direct action. His one advantage, not available to previous generations, was his body armor, which allowed him to survive two shots. He saved one soldier while his brigade was split; in attempting to regroup, he saw a fellow soldier held captive. He killed one insurgent and wounded another to recover the man (who, sadly, died later).
60 Minutes interviews Sal here:
There is also a video depicting a simulation of the ambush for those interested. The New York Times interview by Elizabeth Rubin is the best account I've found.
There is something I want to share here: the humility of the men in all these Medal of Honor stories. Staff Sgt. Sal is no different; a self-described "mediocre or average" soldier, he says these accolades are nothing he wants. He has done something all men there are asked to do. Let me quote his interview with Lara Logan:
"I'm not at peace with that at all," Giunta said. "And coming and talking about it and people wanting to shake my hand because of it, it hurts me, because it's not what I want. And to be with so many people doing so much stuff and then to be singled out--and put forward. I mean, everyone did something."
The President was struck by the genuine goodness of this young man, and I hope you take that with you from reading about him. In the Yahoo update, we find the following:
When presenting Giunta with the Medal of Honor this afternoon at a ceremony inside the White House, President Obama said that he wanted to "go off script" to say "I really like this guy." He added, "We all just get a sense of people and who they are, and when you meet Sal and you meet his family you just absolutely convinced that this is what America is all about, and it just makes you proud."
Sebastian Junger, the great modern war writer, also did an interview with Sal. Next time you're in a Subway Sub Sandwich shop, think about this former Iowa "sandwich artist" who joined the Army and showed what a gutsy hero might secretly reside even in the average man. You do not have to be more than an ordinary person to live life in a non-ordinary way.
Now I want to ask the same question those brave people ask every morning they wake up. "What the hell are they doing there?"