The first living person to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War said Wednesday that he's just an "average" soldier, describing the honor as both overwhelming and "bittersweet."
Army Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who learned last week that he would receive the military's highest award, struck a modest pose as he answered reporters' questions during a long-distance press conference from Italy.
He said there was nothing extraordinary about his actions in the middle of a firefight in Afghanistan Oct. 25, 2007, but that he hopes he can "convey to the world how great the average soldier is" with the attention he's received.
"By no means did I do anything that anyone else wouldn't have done in that situation," Giunta said. "I was just one brushstroke in that picture."
Giunta was joined by his wife Jenny as he described the fight that led to his nomination for the Medal of Honor. The 25-year-old from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is being honored for his actions rescuing two fellow soldiers while taking heavy enemy fire from the Taliban in the dangerous Korengal Valley three years ago.
Giunta saved the life of one soldier and prevented Sgt. Josh Brennan, who later died of his wounds, from being carried away by Taliban fighters.
Giunta called it a "huge, huge honor" to be recognized by the military but said he wishes the circumstances were different.
"It's emotional and it's great. All of this is great -- but it does bring back, then, you know a lot of memories of all the people that I would love to share this moment with," Giunta said. "And I'm just not going to have that opportunity because they're no longer with us and they gave everything for their country."