Obama Awards Medal Of Honor To Iowa Staff Sergeant - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Obama Awards Medal Of Honor To Iowa Staff Sergeant

WASHINGTON - An Army staff sergeant who stepped into the line of fire to help a pair of comrades on the Afghan battlefield has been given a Medal of Honor, the nation's top military award.

President Barack Obama awarded the medal to Salvatore Giunta Tuesday. That makes the 25-year-old Iowan the first living service member from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars to be so honored. Seven others have received the award posthumously.

Obama called Giunta a solider who is "as humble as he is heroic" and said the ceremony was a "joyous occasion."

The Army says Giunta was a rifle team leader in eastern Afghanistan's Korengal Valley when his squad was split in two after an ambush by insurgents. While under fire, Giunta pulled a fellow soldier to cover and rescued another who was being dragged away by the enemy.

Story: A medal's burden: Honoring unheralded heroes

"His courage and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon's ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from enemy hands," the White House said, prior to Tuesday's event.

Giunta, who enlisted in the Army shortly after graduating from Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, is now stationed in Italy with the Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He was in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan at the time of the ambush.

Giunta, who was previously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other medals, called his parents after hearing from the president, his father said.

"He was very honored to talk to the president but he's very reserved about it," Steven Giunta said. "It's not something he's comfortable with, the event or the Medal of Honor.

Steven Giunta said his son is humbled because he believes he was just doing what he was supposed to be doing.

"He mentions every other soldier would have done the same thing. It kind of rocks his world that he's being awarded the Medal of Honor for something each and every one of them would have done. He's very aware of that."

"What a privilege and honor it is and what the men have done over the years to receive it, the feat, the above and beyond portion of it, it's amazing to me," Steven Giunta said.

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