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It took 3 Years? Itsabout time

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    Posted: 19 November 2010 at 14:20

Inquirer Editorial: High honor for humble hero

Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta has proven himself a worthy recipient of the Medal of Honor, on and off the battlefield.

His heroics in combat were recounted Tuesday by President Obama in a White House ceremony.

On Oct. 25, 2007, Giunta and other members of the 503d Infantry Regiment were ambushed in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. Two squad members were hit immediately, then a third.

Under intense enemy fire, Giunta pulled one man to safety. He and other soldiers reached a second man. Then Giunta charged two insurgents trying to carry away a wounded Sgt. Joshua C. Brennan. Giunta killed one insurgent, wounded the other, and desperately tried to stop the bleeding from Brennan's wounds.

Brennan and medic Hugo V. Mendoza would not survive the injuries they received that day. For his heroic efforts, Giunta was recommended for the nation's highest award for valor in combat.

Mendoza and Brennan were much on Giunta's mind Tuesday. "I would give this back in a second to have my friends with me right now," he said after the medal ceremony.

Giunta is the eighth soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for action in Afghanistan or Iraq, but the other seven were awarded posthumously. As the first recipient to receive this medal in person since the Vietnam War, Giunta joins some elite company.

About 3,400 Medals of Honor have been presented since the creation of the award during the Civil War, and 87 recipients are alive, veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Any of those men would fully understand Giunta's attempt to downplay his own actions and to give credit to others. The Iowan recently told the Des Moines Register, "Every single person I was with would have done what I did, possibly even better, but they were doing other things."

True enough. But on Oct. 25, 2007, it was Giunta who displayed conspicuous gallantry, who went above and beyond the call of duty, who risked his life to save others.

This small token of a nation's appreciation will not make up for friends lost, or for the enormous sacrifices so many have made. And it was presented knowing there is a burden that comes from singling out one from many.

But this nation burdens such heroes because a world in which people stumble daily needs to pause every now and then and recognize those who demonstrate the best within us - service, courage, sacrifice, humility.

Salvatore Giunta has demonstrated all this and more. So, as a nation, we ask the man the president praised as being "as humble as he is heroic" to accept this honor for himself and for his country, and hold it as a sacred trust in honor of all who have served.

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