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Medal of Honor recipient's memoir due Dec. 4

Nov. 25, 2012 - 09:30AM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 25, 2012 - 09:30AM  |  
Written by former Staff Sgt. and Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore Giunta, "Living with Honor: A Memoir" is scheduled for release Dec. 4.
Written by former Staff Sgt. and Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore Giunta, "Living with Honor: A Memoir" is scheduled for release Dec. 4. ()
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President Obama presents Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on Nov. 16, 2010. (Sheila Vemmer / Staff)


Former Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta is scheduled to speak and sign copies of his book at military bases across the country.
So far, six appearances have been scheduled, with more in the works.
The first six are:
• 3 p.m. Dec. 1 at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
• 10:30 a.m. Dec. 6 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
• 3:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Fort Carson, Colo.
• Midmorning Dec. 7 at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. (time to be determined).
• 11 a.m. Dec. 20 at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas.
• 11 a.m. Dec. 21 at Fort Hood, Texas.

Former Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta didn't really want to write a book.

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Former Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta didn't really want to write a book.

But the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War realized he has a powerful message to share.

"Too often, people look at me like I'm something special," he said. "I'm not a Navy SEAL. I'm not a tough guy. I'm just a normal guy who wanted to serve his country, and I've always had people in front of me, behind me, to the left of me, to the right of me, and I wanted to highlight their service."

"Living with Honor: A Memoir" is scheduled for release Dec. 4. Written by Giunta, who has left the Army, and Joe Layden, the book chronicles Giunta's journey in the Army and the events that earned him the nation's highest award for valor.

To write the book, Giunta turned to several Medal of Honor recipients from previous wars and their memoirs.

He said he drew from their "incredible" stories and decided he wanted to tell his story in his own words and pay tribute to his brothers and sisters in uniform.

"There aren't any big words in there, no complex ideas. But I'm speaking from the heart," he said.

Giunta, of Hiawatha, Iowa, was awarded the Medal of Honor during a ceremony Nov. 16, 2010, at the White House.

He was honored for his actions on Oct. 25, 2007, in Afghanistan's deadly Korengal valley.

A specialist at the time, Giunta and his platoon were caught in an L-shaped ambush as they were moving through the Gitagal spur to provide overwatch for their sister platoons.

An estimated 15 enemy fighters blasted AK47 and machine-gun fire and shot rocket-propelled grenades at the soldiers, pinning them down.

The two soldiers in the lead team, including Sgt. Josh Brennan, were wounded immediately and separated from the rest of the platoon.

Ignoring the heavy fire, Giunta led his fire team to provide covering fire for his wounded comrades, and as the soldiers fought back, Giunta raced into the open to provide aid to at least two other wounded soldiers.

Giunta was hit by two bullets, including one in the front plate of his body armor, but he continued to fight. He pushed forward with his team to the two wounded soldiers in the lead team even as the enemy, unbeknownst to the soldiers, tried to create a wall of lead to separate the lead element from the rest of the platoon.

The soldiers pressed forward, throwing grenades at enemy fighters 10 to 15 meters away. They finally reached the lead team, and Giunta sprinted through heavy enemy small-arms and machine-gun fire to get to Brennan, who was badly wounded and being dragged away by two enemy fighters.

Giunta killed one of the enemy fighters and wounded the other before pulling Brennan back to safety.">Brennan died from his wounds after being evacuated to a combat support hospital.">Spc. Hugo Mendoza also was killed in that ambush.

Giunta said he still carries with him the events of that day and he knows that while he is now doing well, some of his comrades continue to struggle.

In the book, Giunta highlights a friend involved in a shootout with the police who is now a paraplegic.

"I don't want these people to feel bad, but it happens to a lot of people," Giunta said about soldiers who struggle with the transition from combat. "We can support these people who support and served our country."

Writing the book was a difficult process, Giunta said, adding that he hasn't told very many of his battle buddies about the book.

"I'm more anxious about the book coming out than I am excited," he said. "When I wrote this book, it was hard for me. I had a few tough days looking inside myself, and it's not something that's easy to do. Some of it was painful. I was able to move on [after the events], but to do a book, you have to go back."

Giunta said he worries the book will bring back difficult memories for the soldiers he served with in B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

"If a critic reviews the book and says it's good or bad, honestly, I don't care," he said. "I need my buddies to say it's OK. I want their names in print. The validation of this book will be through my friends."

Giunta said talking about the events of that day has helped him.

"I'll never forget, but I do talk about it all the time," he said. "I'm at peace with it as much as I'm going to be at peace with it. We can't change history, but we can do our best not to forget and remind others."

Giunta, who">left the Army in June 2011 after almost eight years of service and two deployments to Afghanistan, said he hopes readers of the book will be inspired by the service of everyday Americans who wear the uniform.

"It takes everyday, normal, average people to serve in the military, and they do incredible things on our behalf," he said.

And even though his time in the Army is over, there are still troops fighting in Afghanistan, Giunta said.

"The final chapter really hasn't been written," he said. "My final chapter in the war has been written, but the war isn't over."

These days, Giunta, who lives in Fort Collins, Colo., with his wife, Jen, and their daughter, Lillian, said he has come a long way since President Obama placed the Medal of Honor around his neck.

"It was almost painful to put the medal on because of what it represents and who it represents," Giunta said. "But going out now, I can effect change. I can inspire and remind people we're all capable of doing extraordinary things, but we're not if we're not willing to try."

Giunta remains active on the speaking circuit and does work with groups such as the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He plans to go to college in August.

Giunta credits his wife for his success.

"She has been my constant since after the first year of dating," he said. "She's always been by my side. She's made me feel like my home was with her, and of the last eight years [together], three years of marriage, she's pointed me in all the right directions."

Jen Giunta's steady presence also allows him to travel as much as he does for his speaking engagements, Giunta said.

"I think we all could travel the world and never come home as long as we know home was going to be taken care of and safe," he said. "My wife takes care of everything."

And while there are certainly things he misses about the Army, there are things Giunta said he is "absolutely thrilled I don't have to do unless I want to."

That includes waking up at 5 a.m. every day and running five miles.

"But I miss the Army because a lot of what I do now, I do alone," he said, referring to his speaking engagements. "I miss having a goal or a mission, having a common goal with a group of people and succeeding together and trying together. The military instilled such a sense of teamwork and team pride in me, and I miss it."

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