Medal of Honor Recipient to Leave Army

The first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War will end his military career in mid-June, an Army spokesman tells Fox News.

Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta has opted not to re-enlist in the Army and has decided to further his education in Fort Collins, Colo. With the help of the G.I. bill, said Army spokesman George Wright.

Giunta, 26, was draped with the nation's highest award for valor by President Obama at a White House ceremony last year.

Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Giunta was the eighth service member to receive the award since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All those before him received the award posthumously.

Giunta was serving in an Airborne brigade combat team in Afghanistan's deadly Korengal Valley when his unit was surrounded by Taliban fighters on Oct. 25, 2007. The squad was suffering causalities when Giunta ran head-on into the gunfire. His actions not only enabled his unit to fend off the ambush, but he was also able to prevent two Taliban fighters from carrying away his badly wounded comrade, Sgt. Josh Brennan. Brennan later died of his wounds.

At the time of the ceremony the White House said "his courage and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon's ability defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American paratrooper from enemy hands."

Mike Brennan, Josh's father, later told Fox News that if it wasn't for Giunta's actions, "we may never have gotten my son back."

Since then, Giunta has been the new face of the Army, appearing at high-profile events around the country. He dropped the ball in Times Square on New Year's Eve, sat with the first lady during the president's State of the Union address, and most recently waved to the crowd from the field at this year's Super Bowl.

Giunta's spokesman said the war hero and his wife Jenny had made the decision that he would not to re-enlist before the medal nomination was even put on the table.

The Army says it's not upset by Giunta's decision to leave.

"It's the individual soldier's decision and we respect his decision," Wright said.

The Army is also saying that the loss of Giunta does not in any way reflect a trend of soldiers leaving the ranks.

In fact, the 2010 recruiting and retention data show that despite a serious uptick in violence across Afghanistan, Army numbers are strong. The Army exceeded its goal of recruiting 14,533 newly enlisted personnel by 433 men and women in 2010. All four of the services met or exceeded their retention goals.

U.S. and NATO forces have since pulled out of the Korengal Valley, unable to justify the intense losses in such a remote area. Two other members of the Giunta's battalion have pending nominations for the Medal of Honor.