Great Americans of 2010: Medal of Honor Recipient Salvatore Giunta

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 31, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome back to a special edition of "Hannity." Now, we begin our list of Great Americans from 2010 with a man who is described by President Obama as, quote, "being as humble as he is heroic."

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor for the actions he took in October of 2007 after he was ambushed by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Here is his inspiring story.


STAFF SGT. SALVATORE GIUNTA, U.S. ARMY: The day was like any other day in Afghanistan.

HANNITY (voice-over): Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, along with his platoon, were stationed in Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. Now embedded with their unit was author Sebastian Junger.

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, "WAR" AUTHOR: I did five one-month trips into the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan. There was enormous amount of action at the time. A fifth of all the combat in Afghanistan was taking place inside these six miles.


JUNGER: The project was to follow one platoon, 30 men for an entire deployment.

GIUNTA: The day for the most part was quiet. They were picking up ICOM chatter about the enemy setting up. I mean, as a soldier in Afghanistan, you expect that.

JUNGER: The Operation Rock Avalanche came about five months into deployment. Basically, the insurgents were bringing in arms, a lot of rat lines as they call it, to bring ammo, ammunition and fresh fighters from Pakistan. Operation Rock Avalanche was designed to go up there and disrupt that activity and engage the enemy on more equal terms.

HANNITY: But Sergeant Giunta and his fellow soldiers were not prepared for what happened next.

JUNGER: Second platoon got hit pretty badly, about five days into the operation. And they took one casualty, one KIA, and two wounded. And they overran the position they grabbed American weapons, American gear, backpacks, that kind of thing, and made off with them.

So, what the U.S. military wanted to do was try to retrieve that gear so that it couldn't be used as a war trophy.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It was an ambush so close that the cracks from the gun and whiz of the bullets were simultaneous.

JUNGER: They walked into an L-shaped ambush. It was 15 Taliban fighters arrayed alongside the trail and across in an L-shape. I mean, imagine the case. Fifteen automatic weapons, it was dark. People are screaming, shouting, it's deafening loud.

The Apache is circling overhead, can't shoot at anything because the enemy fighters are just 30 feet from the Americans, they're right on top of them. No one can do anything. And it was up to those men to fight their way out of it.

HANNITY: Giunta quickly realized the shots were being fired from multiple directions.

GIUNTA: When the ambush appeared, I would say there's probably -- I don't know, 10 to 20 people, it all kind of goes blurry.

JUNGER: In the middle of that chaos, Sal Giunta realized, with the kind of clarity, that sometimes comes moments of crisis. He was running forward, throwing hand grenades, trying to reach the lead guy, the point man, Josh Brennan, to make sure he was OK. And the shooting was coming from the direction that Josh should have been in. They're shooting at him (ph) from that direction. Josh is not OK.

GIUNTA: There wasn't a lot of thinking that I needed to do. This is my job. This is my profession.

HANNITY: Under a barrage of bullets, he changed his focus and pushed through the gun fire.

OBAMA: Sal and his comrades regrouped and counterattacked. They threw grenades, using the explosions as cover to run forward, shooting at the muzzle flashes still erupting from the trees. And then they did it again and again.

HANNITY: After making his way through enemy fire, Sergeant Giunta was faced with a scene soldiers have nightmares about.

GIUNTA: Kept on running, I saw three guys, there was two guys carrying one guy. The one had his arms and the other had his legs. I only knew one of 'em. And it wasn't the one that I wanted to know. It was Brennan, and he was the one being carried away.

JUNGER: Josh had been hit eight times, but he was alive. Then the enemy was dragging him off alive.

Had the enemy succeed in dragging Josh off alive and taking him, it really would have been catastrophic, I mean, for the family, of course. They wouldn't have known what happened. The military would have assumed Josh was alive and would have mounted a brigade-wide effort to try and get him back. Sal prevented that by running forward into gunfire, hit twice by bullets and he killed the two guys who were carrying his friend.

HANNITY: Sergeant Brennan did not survive his injuries, but due to the actions of Sergeant Giunta, he did not die in the hands of the enemy.

A humbled man, Salvatore Giunta did not seek attention for his heroics and says his friends would have done the same for him.

JUNGER: Word had gotten out he was up for the Medal of Honor. And he was very ambivalent about it. He said, look, it's an honor. It's a medal for bravery. He said, but I'm not any braver than anyone else, like, what I did, everyone -- anyone in the platoon would have done. But Josh was my friend. And I lost my friend in this.

GIUNTA: This is an incredible time. But it's also kind of a bittersweet time.

HANNITY: Despite his heroism and sacrifice, Sergeant Giunta still does not believe he should be honored for his service.

OBAMA: Your courage prevented capture of an American soldier and brought that soldier back to his family. You may not believe that you don't deserve this honor, but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it.

JUNGER: For these guys who become so close out there, there are worse things than dying. Worse than dying is watching your best friend die and not do anything and just watch it happen, or get dragged off by the enemy, even worse. That's worse than dying.

So, when Sal ran forward to try to find his friend, you know, in some ways, I understand when he says, look, it wasn't bravery. He was just trying to prevent the worst possible thing from happening. Josh needed him and everything else was just a detail.


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