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September 10, 2010

Medal of Honor to be Awarded to First Living Recipient Since Vietnam War


In 2007, Army Specialist (now Staff Sergeant) Salvatore Giunta and seven other paratroopers were ambushed while moving along a ridge at night in Afghanistan.

As gunfire and grenades erupted, the paratrooper's medic, Spec. Hugo Mendoza, was hit in the leg and bled to death. A round struck Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo in the helmet, knocking him down.

Giunta was also knocked flat and rolled into a washed-out rut for cover. But then he saw Gallardo ahead of him on the trail and lunged forward, dodging enemy fire to reach the staff sergeant, who survived.

Further ahead on the trail was Army Spec. Franklin Eckrode, seriously wounded and stuck with a jammed machine gun. Giunta and two other paratroopers jumped up and rushed to his aid, headlong into the Taliban ambush, returning fire and tossing grenades as they ran.

As the two paratroopers reached Eckrode and stopped to help, Giunta kept going. Over the ridgeline, he saw two Taliban fighters dragging away Sgt. Joshua Brennan, who had taken the brunt of the fire as the lead paratrooper on the trail. Brennan had been shot in the jaw, the back and several other places. Although badly wounded, the Taliban wanted to take him hostage.

Giunta killed one of them and fought off the other.

Only six Medals of Honor have been awarded to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, all posthumously. Conspicous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty.

Criteria (US Army): The Medal of Honor is awarded by the President, in the name of Congress, to a person who, while a member of the Army, distinguishes himself or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. Incontestable proof of the performance of the service will be exacted and each recommendation for the award of this decoration will be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.

Giunta says he didn't do anything extraordinary or brave, that he thinks he just did what "anyone would have done." And in similar circumstances, I have no doubt that another soldier could have or would done what he did.

But he did it. And he deserves to be recognized for it. Even if he's still among the living to argue with us a little over it.

Well done Staff Sergeant.

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posted by Dave In Texas at 10:50 AM

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