Salvatore Giunta: Soldier Charges Insurgents Alone to Save Comrade

Medal of Honor Recipient Salvatore Giunta

Salvatore Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010.

The third biography in a recent series of posts, which honors our Medal of Honor recipients, is about former Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta.

Salvatore Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor on Nov. 16, 2010 for his courageous actions in Afghanistan on Oct. 25, 2007. He was the first living person to receive the award after the Vietnam War.

Early Life

Salvatore Giunta was born on Jan. 21, 1985 in Clinton, Iowa and grew up in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha. His father, Steven, is a medical equipment technician, and his mother, Rosemary, is a preschool teacher. He has two younger siblings, Mario and Katie.

Sal lived an adventurous childhood, according to an article published in the Des Moines Register. When he was in kindergarten, his mother taught him how to remove the window screen so that the could escape in case of a fire. His first escape was not because of fire, but because of a desire for adventure. He turned back after reaching his neighbor’s house, because he did not know where to go.

In high school he continued to climb out of windows and perform other acts of hijinks. He played practical jokes such as removing the mouse ball from his teacher’s computer.

Sal was 17 when he decided to join the army.

“I was working at Subway. I didn’t really have a whole lot going on,” he told Vanity Fair. “I was curious about the world… It just felt right.”

Military Service

In 2003, Salvatore attended basic training and infantry school at Fort Benning, Ga. He deployed in 2005 to Afghanistan’s Zabul province for his first tour and went a second time to the country in 2007. Salvatore was promoted to staff sergeant in 2009. His last duty station was at Vicenza, Italy where he served in a support role for soldiers of his unit who deployed to Afghanistan. He separated from the Army in 2011.

Medal of Honor Action

Medal of Honor Recipient Salvatore Giunta

Salvatore Giunta was the first living soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.

On Oct. 25, 2007, a well-armed and coordinated insurgent force ambushed Spc. Giunta and his team as they patrolled through harsh terrain in the Korengal Valley.

Spc. Giunta immediately took cover and engaged the enemy. Then he saw that his squad leader had fallen. Believing that his squad leader was injured, Guinta went into the open, under heavy enemy fire, and ran to help him. After moving him to cover, Giunta administered first aid.

Enemy fire struck Spc. Giunta’s body armor while he was delivering aid. Without hesitation, Spc. Giunta engaged the enemy, and then he threw grenades, so that the explosions could conceal his position. He then led his team forward to reach other soldiers who were wounded and separated from the squad.

When the team reached their wounded comrades, Spc. Giunta realized that another soldier was still separated from them. He advanced on his own up a hill, and when he reached the top he saw two insurgents carrying away an American soldier. He attacked the abductors, killing one and wounding the other. He immediately began first aid when he reached his teammate. The rest of the team arrived shortly thereafter and provided security.

Because of Spc. Giunta’s selfless courage, his platoon defeated an enemy ambush and an American soldier was recovered from enemy hands.

Salvatore chose not to reenlist and left the service in 2011. He currently lives with his wife and daughter in Colorado and attends Colorado State University.


Photos courtesy US Army Africa and expertinfantry