A story of honor and heroism, a small town boy who made his family and friends proud, grateful families of fallen and saved comrades. A Real American story with congressional honors, a White House ceremony and tears.
So what’s missing?
Oh, there it is: a “Christian leader” complaining because the Medal of Honor was awarded for saving people and not killing them.
I am pretty sure that the statement by Bryan Fischer of the conservative Christian group the American Family Association complaining that the Medal of Honor has been “feminized” because “we now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them” does not reflect what most people think of as Christian values or even American values.
But it probably does reflect the values of those who do not respect Congress, this particular American President and the worth of every human life.
I started out all ready to rant but as I was pulling together the story of Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and his heroic actions, I decided that plenty of ranting had already been done.
Instead, I was drawn in by the words of those who knew him and the words of President Barack Obama.
Here is a little about the life of Sal Giunta:
“Boyhood friends of Giunta witnessed a wisecracking, rebellious teen growing into a hard-charging man. Teachers describe him as an average kid in academics and athletics who has gone on to do great things. Kennedy High School Associate Principal Aaron Stecker, who was Giunta’s football coach, said Giunta’s reputation as an ordinary teenager makes the honor even more special.
‘He was just an average, everyday, work-hard type of kid, and he took those traits and turned them into something great in the military. I think that’s what I’m most proud of,’ Stecker said. ‘I think the top-end kids get a lot of recognition and a lot of push and a lot of press, and, honestly, he’s an average to slightly above-average guy who did extraordinary things.'”
And here is the extraordinary thing that he did (in President Obama’s words):
During the first of his two tours of duty in Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Giunta was forced early on to come to terms with the loss of comrades and friends. His team leader at the time gave him a piece of advice: “You just try — you just got to try to do everything you can when it’s your time to do it.” You’ve just got to try to do everything you can when it’s your time to do it.
Salvatore Giunta’s time came on October 25, 2007. He was a Specialist then, just 22 years old.
Sal and his platoon were several days into a mission in the Korengal Valley — the most dangerous valley in northeast Afghanistan. The moon was full. The light it cast was enough to travel by without using their night-vision goggles. With heavy gear on their backs, and air support overhead, they made their way single file down a rocky ridge crest, along terrain so steep that sliding was sometimes easier than walking.
They hadn’t traveled a quarter mile before the silence was shattered. It was an ambush, so close that the cracks of the guns and the whizz of the bullets were simultaneous. Tracer fire hammered the ridge at hundreds of rounds per minute — “more,” Sal said later, “than the stars in the sky.”
The Apache gunships above saw it all, but couldn’t engage with the enemy so close to our soldiers. The next platoon heard the shooting, but were too far away to join the fight in time.
And the two lead men were hit by enemy fire and knocked down instantly. When the third was struck in the helmet and fell to the ground, Sal charged headlong into the wall of bullets to pull him to safety behind what little cover there was. As he did, Sal was hit twice — one round slamming into his body armor, the other shattering a weapon slung across his back.
They were pinned down, and two wounded Americans still lay up ahead. So Sal and his comrades regrouped and counterattacked. They threw grenades, using the explosions as cover to run forward, shooting at the muzzle flashes still erupting from the trees. Then they did it again. And again. Throwing grenades, charging ahead. Finally, they reached one of their men. He’d been shot twice in the leg, but he had kept returning fire until his gun jammed.
As another soldier tended to his wounds, Sal sprinted ahead, at every step meeting relentless enemy fire with his own. He crested a hill alone, with no cover but the dust kicked up by the storm of bullets still biting into the ground. There, he saw a chilling sight: the silhouettes of two insurgents carrying the other wounded American away — who happened to be one of Sal’s best friends. Sal never broke stride. He leapt forward. He took aim. He killed one of the insurgents and wounded the other, who ran off.
Sal found his friend alive, but badly wounded. Sal had saved him from the enemy — now he had to try to save his life. Even as bullets impacted all around him, Sal grabbed his friend by the vest and dragged him to cover. For nearly half an hour, Sal worked to stop the bleeding and help his friend breathe until the MEDEVAC arrived to lift the wounded from the ridge. American gunships worked to clear the enemy from the hills. And with the battle over, First Platoon picked up their gear and resumed their march through the valley. They continued their mission.[…]
Staff Sergeant Giunta, repeatedly and without hesitation, you charged forward through extreme enemy fire, embodying the warrior ethos that says, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Your actions disrupted a devastating ambush before it could claim more lives. Your courage prevented the capture of an American soldier and brought that soldier back to his family. You may believe that you don’t deserve this honor, but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it. In fact, your commander specifically said in his recommendation that you lived up to the standards of the most decorated American soldier of World War II, Audie Murphy, who famously repelled an overwhelming enemy attack by himself for one simple reason: “They were killing my friends.”
That’s why Salvatore Giunta risked his life for his fellow soldiers — because they would risk their lives for him. That’s what fueled his bravery — not just the urgent impulse to have their backs, but the absolute confidence that they had his. One of them, Sal has said — of these young men that he was with, he said, “They are just as much of me as I am.” They are just as much of me as I am.
One of those friends was Sergeant Joshua C. Brennan who later died of his wounds. Joshua Brennan was from McFarland WI a suburb of Madison where his father, Mike, is a police officer. Another reminder that we are all connected as Americans when we find national stories in our local papers. And share the pain of families who are part of our own community.
(Note: If the video does not play, click on this link and scroll down to the video)
Now, please, Bryan Fischer, go crawl back under that rock that you came from.
While many of us wish most fervently that we would never send our young people to war, we respect their service and their sacrifices.
And in my America, we don’t consider it either masculine or feminine to respect life…we consider it human.