"I AM NOT AT PEACE WITH THIS," SAYS FIRST LIVING SOLDIER TO WIN THE MEDAL OF HONOR SINCE THE VIETNAM WAR � "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta Details the Actions he Took to Earn the Coveted Medal
The first living soldier to win the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War tells Lara Logan in an emotional interview just what he did in an Afghanistan firefight to earn the nation's highest combat honor and how the recognition makes him uncomfortable. Medal of Honor winner Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and several of his squad members appear in Logan's 60 MINUTES report to be broadcast Sunday, Nov. 14 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Giunta says he is "not at peace" with the actions of that day, being singled out from the rest of his squad in the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade. "I don't think I did anything that anyone else I was with wouldn't have done. I was in a position to do it. That was what needed to be done. So I did it," he tells Logan
Giunta will receive the medal from President Barack Obama in a ceremony next Tuesday (16) at the White House. He is receiving it for risking his life to stop the enemy who were abducting a wounded American soldier in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.
The death of one of Giunta's squad members and subsequent enemy radio chatter expressing wishes to take away a prize next time � an American soldier � set the stage for the sergeant's actions the next day, Oct. 25, 2007. Caught in an L-shaped ambush, Giunta's squad was pinned down. "Everything, everything happened. The world happened in that next step," recalls Giunta. "Tracers, bullets, RPG's, explosions, wings, zings, tings, snaps, pops, cracks. If we could have done it, we would have done it to them. It was perfectly done," he tells Logan.
The enemy was close. "You can see the muzzle flashes....less of a distance than you can throw a baseball," says Giunta, whose first heroic action was to pull his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo, to safety. Gallardo was caught in the open on his back and stunned after taking a shot to his helmet. "I was on my back like a turtle," says Gallardo, "...just laying there for them to shoot at." Giunta saved Gallardo by getting him to cover but took a bullet in the process.
"I got hit on the lower part of my front vest...there's adrenaline going on and everything but it just placed the weight across my whole chest," Giunta tells Logan. "Couldn't ask for anything better than that, because a bullet just hit me and I felt air."
He and Gallardo recovered and, with two other soldiers, ran into heavy fire towards their comrades who were in trouble. "I don't know how much time has passed....it all just plays in a kind of skipped, slow-motion-slash-fast-forward-messed-up-Tivo kind of way," Giunta says. "We threw our first grenades and we ran and we shot and we did it again and we got closer," he tells Logan. They reached one of their men, he was wounded, and Giunta soon noticed something up ahead. "Three guys and I saw two of them carrying one guy...they were dragging him...I saw their hats and their beards," says Giunta. They were dragging away his friend, Joshua Brennan, and Giunta sprang into action.
"I shot one guy and he falls and the other guy was already running away...because I was just running and shooting, just closing the gap...I started going for the other guy and by that time I was at Brennan," he tells Logan. Watch an excerpt.
The gravely wounded Brennan died, but besides saving Gallardo's life, Giunta may have saved more lives by preventing the necessity of sending a patrol out to find Brennan. He also denied the enemy the morale boost the American soldier's body would have given them, in addition to preventing the desecration of an American hero's body.
More about Giunta and his wife, Jenny, will be available Sunday on 60MinutesOvertime.com.