“They all say that,” I said to my wife.

I was referring to Salvatore A. Giunta’s comment during his Medal of Honor ceremony, that he only did what any one of his fellow soldiers would do in the same situation if roles were reversed.

That obviously isn’t true. If it were, there would be a lot more medals handed out. And in Giunta’s case, the men in his unit unanimously agreed that he should receive the honor.
As a result, an entire nation was thrilled Tuesday, well, at least I was thrilled, to see Giunta, a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army, receive the Congressional Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House. He was the first living recipient in about 40 years. Most CMOH winners receive the award posthumously.

I thought it appropriate to honor Giunta and a few of the other recipients – one from each branch of the military in honor of the occasion.

Giunta, (born January 21, 1955) was cited for saving members of his squad on October 25th, 2007 during the war in Afghanistan.
In 2007 Giunta was stationed at Firebase Vegas in the Korangal valley and in late October his company launched a six-day mission known as Rock Avalanche. On October 23 Taliban fighters killed a respected Staff Sergeant, Larry Rougle, and wounded another two infantrymen when Rougle’s position on “Honcho Hill” was overrun. On October 25, company commander Captain Dan Kearney sent two of his platoons back into the area on a mission to recover the US equipment that had been captured when Rougle was killed.

Giunta and his eight-man squad were moving along a steep ridgeline of Honcho Hill when at least a dozen insurgents mounted an L-shaped ambush at such close range that close air support could not be provided. Sergeant Joshua Brennan, who was walking point, suffered at least 6 gunshot wounds. Giunta, then a specialist, was the fourth soldier back and squad leader Erick Gallardo third. Gallardo attempted to sprint forward but encountered heavy RPG and small arms fire. While moving back to cover, he was struck in the helmet and fell. Giunta saw Gallardo go down and ran to him, but after helping the sergeant back to cover Giunta took a bullet to the chest and another bullet destroyed a weapon slung over his back. The platoon commander, Lt Brad Winn, radioed Kearney to advise him that he had five men down (the squad’s medic, Spec. Hugo Mendoza, was fatally wounded at the beginning of the ambush). Kearney ordered Second Platoon to assist Winn’s platoon, but Second Platoon had to cross a river to do so.

Both Giunta and Gallardo had been saved by their body armor, however, and resumed their advance along with two others, firing and throwing hand grenades, until they reached Specialist Franklin Eckrode. Eckrode had been shot twice in the leg and was attempting to un-jam his M249 machine gun. While Gallardo, who later received a Silver Star for his actions, dressed Eckrode’s wounds, Giunta continued to advance. Seeing three Taliban fighters, two of whom were attempting to carry away Brennan, Giunta pursued them over exposed ground firing his M4 Carbine, killing one (who was known as Mohammad Tali and considered a high-value target. After reaching Brennan, Giunta pulled him to cover and provided aid.

“I ran through fire to see what was going on with [Brennan] and maybe we could hide behind the same rock and shoot together … He was still conscious. He was breathing. He was asking for morphine.” I said, “You’ll get out and tell your hero stories, and he was like,” ‘I will, I will.’”Brennan did not survive surgery. According to his father, Michael Brennan, “not only did [Giunta] save [my son] Josh … He really saved half of the platoon.”
Giunta’s Medal Of Honor Citation said he received the award for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty…
To read the full citation click the following link:



 Robert R. Ingram, U.S. Navy, received the Medal Of Honor and survived his combat experiences while serving in Vietnam.

When talking about courage in the face of almost certain death, Ingram personifies the phrase, above and beyond.

While serving as Corpsman with Company C, First Battalion, Seventh Marines against elements of a North Vietnam Aggressor (NVA) battalion in Quang Ngai Province Republic of Vietnam on 28 March 1966. Petty Officer Ingram was with the point platoon when the Marines came under fire from 100 North Vietnamese regulars. His citation says the village tree line literally exploded with the intense enemy automatic rifle fire. With the platoon decimated and oblivious to enemy fire, Ingram crawled through the bullet-splattered terrain to reach a fallen Marine. He received his first wound, but rendered first-aid to the marine before answering another call for “corpsman.” He collected ammunition from the dead and gave aid to the wounded and was again wounded – twice. Realizing the third wound was life-threatening, he nevertheless continued rendering life-saving aid to other wounded Marines until he reached his platoon. While dressing the head wound of another corpsman, he received his fourth wound.


“Petty Officer Ingram pushed, pulled, cajoled, and doctored his Marines. Enduring the pain from his many wounds and disregarding the probability of his demise, Petty Officer Ingram’s intrepid actions saved many lives that day. By his indomitable fighting spirit, daring initiative, and unfaltering dedication to duty, Petty Officer Ingram reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

To read the full citation click the following link:


Robert D. Maxwell, U.S. Army, received the Medal Of Honor and survived his combat experiences while serving in France during World War II. 


His citation reads in full:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 7 September 1944, near Besancon, France. Technician 5th Grade Maxwell and 3 other soldiers, armed only with .45 caliber automatic pistols, defended the battalion observation post against an overwhelming onslaught by enemy infantrymen in approximately platoon strength, supported by 20mm. flak and machinegun fire, who had infiltrated through the battalion’s forward companies and were attacking the observation post with machinegun, machine pistol, and grenade fire at ranges as close as 10 yards. Despite a hail of fire from automatic weapons and grenade launchers, Technician 5th Grade Maxwell aggressively fought off advancing enemy elements and, by his calmness, tenacity, and fortitude, inspired his fellows to continue the unequal struggle. When an enemy hand grenade was thrown in the midst of his squad, Technician 5th Grade Maxwell unhesitatingly hurled himself squarely upon it, using his blanket and his unprotected body to absorb the full force of the explosion. This act of instantaneous heroism permanently maimed Technician 5th Grade Maxwell, but saved the lives of his comrades in arms and facilitated maintenance of vital military communications during the temporary withdrawal of the battalion’s forward headquarters.

Don’t let his boyish smile fool you. For the epitome of a fighting Marine, look no further than Sgt. Richard A. Pittman. He received the Medal of Honor for his heroism and dedication to duty in Vietnam.

While conducting a combat operation with Company 1 along a narrow jungle trail, the unit came under extremely heavy fire from a numerically superior enemy force. With casualties mounting, Pittman heard calls from his fellow marines for more firepower. Pittman ditched his rifle, grabbed a machine gun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon and rushed forward to aid his companions.

He advanced through enemy small arms fire at point blank range, returning fire he silenced the enemy guns. While continuing his advance he was attacked by 2 automatic weapons which he destroyed.
Learning there were wounded marines 50 yards further along the trail, he again braved a “withering hail” of mortar and small-arms fire to reach the position where the leading marines had fallen. He was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy.

With no regard for his personal safety, he calmly established a position and raked the enemy with devastating machinegun fire until his weapon was rendered useless. He seized an enemy submachine gun and together with a pistol obtained from a fallen marine, he continued to attack until the enemy retreated. After hurling a final grenade at the retreating enemy, he rejoined his unit.

His Medal of Honor citation says in part: “Sgt. Pittman’s daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades. His personal valor at grave risk to himself reflects the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the U.S. Naval Service.”

To read the full citation click the following link:



U.S. Air Force Capt. Steven L. Bennett was the pilot of a light aircraft flying an artillery adjustment mission along a heavily defended segment of enemy territory.

This hero could have gone home once his mission was complete, but on the way he spotted a concentration of enemy troops massing for an attack on a friendly unit. Capt. Bennett requested tactical air support but was advised that none was available. He also requested artillery support but this too was denied due to the close proximity of friendly troops to the target.

Instead of going home, Capt. Bennett was determined to aid the endangered unit and elected to strafe the hostile positions. After four such passes, the enemy force began to retreat but Capt. Bennett continued the attack. As he completed his fifth strafing pass, his aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile, which severely damaged the left engine and the left main landing gear.

As fire spread in the left engine, Capt. Bennett realized that recovery at a friendly airfield was impossible. He instructed his observer to prepare for an ejection, but was informed by the observer that his parachute had been shredded by the force of the impacting missile.

Although Capt. Bennett had a good parachute, he knew that if he ejected, the observer would have no chance of survival. With complete disregard for his own life, Capt. Bennett elected to ditch the aircraft into the Gulf of Tonkin, even though he realized that a pilot of this type aircraft had never survived a ditching.

The crash landing on the water caused the aircraft to cartwheel, severely damaging the cockpit. The observer escaped and was rescued by friendly forces. Capt. Bennett died in the crash.

His Medal of Honor citation reads in part: “Capt. Bennett’s unparalleled concern for his companion, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.”

To read the full citation click the following link:

ALWAYS REMEMBER: It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus [or community] organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.
—Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC



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