SSGT Giunta is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. See news report. He teared up when he described his receipt of the award. He said he did not deserve it and that he was only a "mediocre" soldier. I am sure that he does deserve it. But, it is true that he did what many soldiers would have done and have done.
Civilians who have never served do not appreciate the selflessness that serving in the armed forces instills. We are taught to be a member of a team and to not seek personal recognition. The few soldiers who do seek personal recognition are often shunned or become the subject of jokes. "There is no ‘I’ in the word team." How many times have I heard that during training or in Army schools??
When I was young, I remember a few World War II vets who shunned the spotlight. Certifiable heroes, they nevertheless avoided recognition. Now, I understand why. To seek what we were taught to avoid would undermine everything we fought and bled for.
For those not familiar, SSGT Giunta’s squad was caught in an L-shaped ambush. It was well executed and well planned. Giunta and his squad was pinned down. Two soldiers were forward of the rest and were exposed in the open, with no cover. One was wounded badly, SGT Brennan. Brennan and Giunta were close friends. In the dim light, Giunta could see that two Taliban fighters were dragging Brennan away. Giunta got up, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire and advanced, tossed a grenade and shooting. He shot one Taliban and the other retreated. SSGT Giunta rescued his dying friend and pulled him back to safety. Brennan died soon after. But, Brennnan died knowing he was back with his buddies. SSGT Giunta’s attack broke up the ambush. The Taliban retreated.
When you serve and especially when you deploy, your military unit becomes your family. I would have given my life for my buddies readily, as they would have for me. SSGT Giunta is right that his actions are not all that uncommon. He is also right that he accepts the award for every soldier, marine, airman and sailor who was ready to do what he did. He stands for us all in many ways.
But, SSGT Giunta is also the best of us. We are not all selfless or as selfless as we should be when we serve. When many Iraq/Afghanistan vets return home, many come back angry. Angry at those few instances when some soldier acted for his/her self interest and needlessly added to the ever present risk in a war zone.
SSGT Giunta reminds us all how it should be. He is the best of us.