Medal Of Honor Winner: All Soldiers Are Great

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Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was chosen to receive the Medal of Honor, the military's highest award for valor. He was cited for heroic action three years ago in Afghanistan. Only eight people who have fought in either Afghanistan or Iraq have earned the Medal of Honor. Sgt. Giunta is the only one living. This week, he spoke to reporters about what happened that day in Afghanistan and about his reaction to being awarded the Medal of Honor. Here are his words.


And now a different vantage point on the war in Afghanistan - how combat looked to one soldier on a moonlit night as he and his unit made their way along a ridge line and straight into an ambush.

Sergeant SALVATORE GIUNTA (U.S. Army): The day was like any other day in Afghanistan. I mean, we're all soldiers; we're all out on a mission.

SMITH: That's Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta. What's remarkable is that we're even hearing his voice. He is to receive the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in combat. Only eight have been awarded during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. None of the other recipients survived. That ambush that Sergeant Giunta lived to tell about happened three years ago, October 25, 2007. He spoke about it publicly this week.

Sgt. GIUNTA: The sun's just going over the mountains. Night's falling. We have Apache attack helicopters above us flying around, covering us.

ROBERTS: Yeah, but the Apaches couldn't cover them. The enemy, the Taliban, were too close - not much more than 20 feet from Giunta and seven other American soldiers. Nearly everyone was hit. Giunta took a bullet in the chest. His body armor saved his life. The bullet stunned him, but it didn't stop him. He ran straight at enemy fire.

Sgt. GIUNTA: There was no fear in my mind. The fear was the same. Everyone's getting shot at, everyone's in the same boat. I'll just keep on going. I'm running anyway. I'm out of grenades - might as well just run.

SMITH: But not away - toward the men shooting at him. Giunta saw two Taliban fighters dragging away a fellow shoulder, and he acted. He engaged the enemy, and pulled his comrade back to cover. Still, two of the Americans died.

Sgt. GIUNTA: After the medevac bird comes in and starts picking people up, it's not over. You're not out of Afghanistan; you're not off the side of the mountain. You're just minus some buddies. And we're still an hour and a half walk away from where we needed to be, and now we have extra equipment and less men.

SMITH: Since he found out that he was to receive the Medal of Honor, Sergeant Giunta has been asked - quite a bit - if he is a hero. What he says is that he wants to convey to the world how great the average soldier is.

Sgt. GIUNTA: I am only mediocre. I'm average, and by no means did I do anything that anyone else wouldn't have done in that situation.

SMITH: His commander-in-chief sees it differently. In a statement, President Obama cited Giunta's courage and leadership as integral to defeating the enemy ambush.

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