Medal of Honor Recipient Giunta Chooses Not to Re-Enlist

Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta is leaving the Army.

Giunta has decided not to sign a contract for continued service in the Army, public affairs officer Todd Oliver said Tuesday.

The 26-year-old Hiawatha, Iowa, native has been the face of the Afghanistan war since President Obama presented him with the nation’s highest military award in November. “SSG Giunta’s military service will end on or about 13 June,” Oliver wrote in an e-mail from Italy.

Giunta is a noncommissioned officer in the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. He is currently assigned to a base in Vincenza, Italy, called Caserma Ederle, where he aids military operations in Afghanistan.

He served two tours in Afghanistan, from March 2005 to March 2006, and from May 2007 to July 2008.

He is the first living American to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. Giunta exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a fellow soldier back to cover and rescued another being taken hostage by insurgents.

Giunta has been in the public eye lately. TV cameras focused on him standing on the sidelines of the Super Bowl this past weekend. He helped ring in the new year at the countdown in New York City’s Times Square. David Letterman and Stephen Colbert brought him on their late-night shows. Crowds lined up at the Iowa Capitol for a chance to shake his hand and get a photograph with him.

He has handled his new fame with humility and reluctance. Giunta has said the praise for his actions was hard to swallow because two of his friends were killed in the ambush in October 2007.

“It’s kind of an awkward situation,” Giunta said in an October telephone interview. “Every single person I was with would have done what I did, possibly even better, but they were doing other things. So for a medal to be awarded to me for actions that are ‘above and beyond,’ sometimes it’s hard for me to stomach hearing that.”

Next up for Giunta: He’ll go to college using financial benefits from the GI Bill, Oliver said.

He departs for Italy on Wednesday. He’s unavailable for press interviews Tuesday, Oliver said.

Giunta told the Army News Service in late January: “I hopefully will find my way to Colorado, and I’m looking at hopefully Colorado State. I’m looking at either of two things, business or natural resource management. I don’t really know, but I know knowledge is power, and I’ll just see where it takes me.”

Col. Gregory Hapgood Jr., the Iowa National Guard’s public affairs officer, said in an interview Tuesday: “He’s a phenomenal representative for those of us in the military. It will be sad to see him leave the military. In another way, we’ve got to be happy that he’s going in a direction that he wants to go. It’s important that you have certain dreams and do everything you can to achieve them. So in that respect, we’re very happy for him.”

story by: Jennifer Jacobs

photo courtesy of: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Melissa Harvey

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