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Uncommon Valor: SSgt. Salvatore Giunta

Updated on January 14, 2012

"In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present."

Sir Francis Bacon

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta

Place of birth: Clinton, Iowa

Allegiance: United States of America

Service/branch: United States Army

Years of service: 2003 – 2011

Rank: Staff Sergeant

Unit: 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade CombatTeam

Battles/wars: War in Afghanistan

Awards: Medal of Honor Bronze Star Purple Heart

1st tour in Afghanistan

The Ambush

Korengal outpost

Upon occasion, I have the opportunity to communicate with those of other nations. I am astounded by their attitude toward Americans. In an attempt to enlighten them, they typically cite the policies and practices of our nation’s leaders. Indeed, they reflect the American doctrine, but not the hearts and soul of our country’s greatest asset; the people.

This is a primary example of a case in point. An 18 year old kid from the Iowa decided to make a difference by joining the Army. He received both his Basic Training and Infantry Training at Fort Benning. His initial duty assignment was 7,000 miles from home in Afghanistan. After a brief break he returned for a second tour in 2007. As so many before him, he was to call the Korengal Valley his home. Those whom did so before him, had another name for it based on its reputation. It was known as 'the Valley of Death' for its unforgiving terrain and track record.

In a devastating Taliban attack on an area known as Honcho Hill, the U.S. Army lost a beloved comrade along with military equipment they needed to reacquire. Therefore, the stage was set for the commencement of a special operation to recover U.S. equipment captured. The mission was to be identified as Operation Rock Avalanche. The strategy consisted of the coordination of 3 Platoons. The first Platoon was to provide cover from the enemy threat upon the hillside looking down upon the valley, while the second and third Platoons met with the local villagers to get back the U.S. property. As the team reviewed their strategy and tactics for the operation, his team leader provided the following advice if things got sticky; " You just gotta try to do everything you can when its your time to do it." As it turns out, That time was nearing ever so close.

These are the circumstances and actions which led to Salvatore Giunta being awarded the Medal of Honor. SSgt. Guinta, then a specialist, would be the forth recipient in the Afghanistan War. He would be the first to receive it not posthumously since the Vietnam Conflict. So on a moonlit night, October 25th, 2007, the young 22 year old specialist along with the members of the first Platoon began the journey back to their combat outpost. Having accomplished their mission to provide cover for their brethren Platoon, they proceeded single file due to the steep terrain. Rifle Team Leader Giunta describes what followed for the small Platoon along the Gatigal Spur of Honcho Hill.

“There were more bullets in the air than stars in the sky. A wall of bullets at every one at the same time with one crack and then a million other cracks afterwards. They’re above you, in front of you, behind you, below you. They’re hitting in the dirt early. They’re going over your head. Just all over the place. They were close—as close as I’ve ever seen.”

An ambush of a dozen or so insurgents armed with AK-47’s, RPG’s and PKM machine guns erupted within mere meters of the American squad. In fact, the enemy was so close; the Air support Apache Helicopters were helpless to neutralize the assault due to the proximity of the soldiers to the Taliban insurgents. Sgt. Josh Brennan was on the point of this single file formation. Salvatore would say of the hundreds of rounds fired in rapid succession, there were more tracers than stars in the sky.

The point man was immediately hit by numerous rounds of the ensuing volley. Sgt. Brennan was followed next in the formation by Specialist Frank Eckrode, also struck with numerous rounds. The third man in single file formation, Squad Leader Eric Gallardo, made an initial attempt to advance, in a failed effort to assist his fallen brothers. He was unable to advance due to the degree of firepower of the enemy attack. As Gallardo fell back toward the fourth man, Sgt. Giunta, Gallardo was struck in the helmet by a round. Sal, realizied they were facing a multi-directional attack from the north and west; fore the ridge provided little or no cover as rounds wizzed all around him. He radioed the situation to the 13 man team trailing immediately behind the ambush position.

Giunta then directed the rearguard, PFC Kaleb Casey and Garret Clary to pull back, in effort to counter a potential enemy flanking movement. Casey and Clary provided support firing a M249 and M203 as Sgt. Giunta ran toward Gallardo through a hail of enemy fire. In doing so, while assisting Gallardo to cover, he was hit in his ceramic plate body armor, while another round struck his slung weapon. The four men then assembled in an effort to counter the attack and reach their fallen comrades. The men were able to reach Eckrode, as Gallardo dressed his multiple wounds and then called for MEDEVAC assistance. WIth Eckrode secure, Giunta and Clary set out to retrieve Brennen.

As they arrived at the location where they last saw Brennan, Sgt. Guinta took off through the opening to peer down the crest in the valley. Sal spotted his best friend in the hands of the enemy. Brennan was being dragged away by his captors. Sgt. Giunta continued toward Brennan’s captors firing his M4 rfle, killing one and wounding the other; enough so to release his prisoner to flee. Sgt. Guinta successfully reunited Sgt. Brennan with the rest of the team until such time assistance arrived. Sgt. Brennan’s wounds were too extensive and died in surgery the following day. Specialist Hugo Mendoza, medic for the squad, was also killed in the ambush. In fact, none of the Platoon had come away unscathed. All had shrapnel or bullet holes in their gear.

November 16, 2010, President Obama awards Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry for his courageous actions against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in October 2007.

Lest we shall forget


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    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      Thanks for your heartfelt words 50, I propose a toast...

      Lest we never forget our American Soldiers. Take care Sir

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      Wow, a fine article bringing the actions of one of our American Soldiers to the front in a way that really touched my heart on many different levels. Gratitude that it was bestowed on a living, survivor of his actions, and then the strikes of bullets he received, even though he was protected did not shake his will or slow him down

      I have to thank femmeflashpoint for notifying me to this great presentation.

      In the midst of apposing our president on some of his actions, I have to give credit where it is due, his speech and going off script may be the first time I've seen warm humanity from him, he did a great job with out doubt. The opening and closing benedictions by the Chaplain were great as well and unexpected in todays light of Spiritual differences.

      Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, is the man who brought this together and I thank him and all who were there lending after action support running the enemy away to end the ambush.

      Thank you for this presentation that I pray will draw the people together supporting the soldiers and realizing that there are soldiers at war in our support and America is at the mall and need to remember that it can be so, because a soldier is working toward all keeping these freedoms.


    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      Thank you for your comments American View. Just a guy pointing the flashlight Sir...

      "In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present."

      Sir Francis Bacon

    • American View profile image

      American View 

      6 years ago from Plano, Texas

      Great hub recognizing one of our many brave men and women who serve in our armed forces. Your hub brings honor to SSgt. Salvatore Giunta. Up and Awesome

    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      "In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present."

      Sir Francis Bacon

      Thanks for your comments femme

    • profile image


      6 years ago


      Beautifully written, and deeply touching.

      Shared, shared, and shared again.

      Thank you so much for telling their story.


    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona


      Thank you once again for your kind words. The Leroy Petry Hub brought me to tears composing it. If you have a moment... link: Leroy Petry: Medal Of Honor

    • LuxmiH profile image

      Luxmih Eve-Lyn Forbes 

      7 years ago from Fort Pierce, Florida

      Fantastic!Voted up and awesome. Thanks for this it's so inpiring. I am sharing it on my FB page. Heroism serves to remind fellow Americans how privleged we are to have such awesome countrymen defending our freedom.

      God Bless the USA!

    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona


      I actually suspected as much. Previous experience often makes me cautious that way. Quick story, A gal from Mexico blasted me for not recognizing she was an American.Indeed she is from North America. Therefore, I felt it best to make sure. My apologies for the error in judgement. I'm someonewhoshouldaknown. Thx. for the comments.gjf

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      I was refering to the parents of SSGT Salvatore

      Giunta. We often like to think of all such brave soldiers as "our" sons wheather they are or not.Example "The sons of (Insert your own state here)or "The Sons of liberty" as it's often been said.

    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      Dear Someone who Knows,

      I would like to clarify SSgt. Giunta is not my son. If I wrote something which led you to believe that please let me know. That is of course, unless you have something you care to share regarding him actually being my son. Nonetheless Thank you for your thoughtfullness.As Americans we should be proud of his character regardless.

      Take Care...gjf

    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      The Rising Glory,

      Thank you for your kind words.I must confess, after writing many hubs regarding the politics of the Nation, I need to go to the place I find solace;why I believe in this nation. Lest we forget the true Heroes and Leaders and the motivation behind their actions.Get out the vote. Godspeed...gjf

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      Congratulations on having such a brave son who does things like this in the name of honor.I'm proud just to share the same first name with him in the belief that I too would do what he has done if I were faced with the same situation.

      God has blessed you with a fine upstanding son.

    • The Rising Glory profile image

      The Rising Glory 

      7 years ago from California

      Excellent write up! Our men/women in uniform are the greatest! I have a close friend that is Russian who grew up during the Soviet times. He frustrates me often as he does not understand the love of country so many Americans have. I enjoyed reading your HUB!


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