First living Medal of Honor recipient since 1976
November 17, 2010 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Badass of the Week.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:06 AM on November 17, 2010

love the soldier
hate the war
posted by liza at 7:07 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jesus, what a story. That's guys balls have balls.
posted by saladin at 7:10 AM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Congratulations to Staff Sgt. Giunta. Def. watch the interview. An eloquent and impressive man.
posted by jmccw at 7:10 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

In his own words.

"It worked out really well. Pretty well. Fairly well. It didn't really work out really well."
posted by procrastination at 7:12 AM on November 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

When I read the excerpt from Elizabeth Rubin's longer magazine piece in the Times' Week in Review section Sunday morning, it just caught me up and made me sob. Perhaps Since I recently read some WWI histories, the futility of it all is heart wrenching.

"Last April, after three more years of killing and dying in that valley, the Americans decided to leave the place to the locals. "
posted by readery at 7:28 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Brave guy. That "Badass of the Week" site makes me cringe, though.
posted by dazed_one at 7:49 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am deeply grateful for his service to our country

I am deeply disappointed that we asked it of him.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:50 AM on November 17, 2010 [13 favorites]

I like this guy too Mr. President.
posted by cmfletcher at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2010

Very much related to this is the film Restrepo by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2010

Sebastian Junger's book War included some of Giunta's story, with an excerpt here.
Giunta estimates that not more than ten or fifteen seconds elapsed between the initial attack and his own counterattack. An untrained civilian would have experienced those ten or fifteen seconds as a disorienting barrage of light and noise and probably have spent most of it curled up on the ground. An entire platoon of men who react that way would undoubtedly die to the last man.

Giunta, on the other hand, used those fifteen seconds to assign rates and sectors of fire to his team, run to Gallardo’s assistance, assess the direction of a round that hit him in the chest, and then throw three hand grenades while assaulting an enemy position. Every man in the platoon  —  even the ones who were wounded  —  acted as purposefully and efficiently as Giunta did. For obvious reasons, the Army has tried very hard to understand why some men respond effectively in combat and others just freeze. “I did what I did because that’s what I was trained to do,” Giunta told me. “There was a task that had to be done, and the part that I was gonna do was to link alpha and bravo teams. I didn’t run through fire to save a buddy  —  I ran through fire to see what was going on with him and maybe we could hide behind the same rock and shoot together. I didn’t run through fire to do anything heroic or brave. I did what I believe anyone would have done.”
I'm comfortable calling that heroism. Giunta is one hell of a guy.
posted by lullaby at 7:58 AM on November 17, 2010 [8 favorites]

He beat Medal of Honor? I'm still having trouble getting gold past those snipers on the bridge.
posted by klangklangston at 8:21 AM on November 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

So, flanked on two sides by screaming enemy soldiers desperately attempting to pin them down with a seemingly endless stream of bullets, Salvatore Giunta and his two allies did what their assailants least expected – they charged.

Which is exactly what you're supposed to do when you get ambushed -- charge right in the direction of the ambushers. Can't stand still. Can't run. Screw it -- attack.

Now saying that and doing that are two totally different things ... which is why we all get to sit here comfortably at our keyboards.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:55 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Can you explain the relevance of the Owen quotation here? The poem is directed at war propagandists who, in Owen's view, dishonestly exhort people to fight wars with the promise of glory when in fact war is a squalid, dirty business. This post is about someone who acted in a heroic manner under horrific conditions. So, are you trying to say that the whole Medal of Honor ceremony is just war propaganda? Or that Giunta is a dupe for acting heroically? Seriously, I'm not getting it.
posted by googly at 9:02 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

'Getting the medal is the easy part, Allen James Lynch told a crowd of about 30 seniors and veterans at Wheeling Township offices Tuesday.

“Afterward, it's what you do with the medal that's the hard part,” said the 65-year-old Medal of Honor recipient from Gurnee, reflecting on his life since receiving the nation's highest military decoration from President Richard Nixon in 1970.'
posted by clavdivs at 9:04 AM on November 17, 2010

I am deeply grateful for his service to our country

I am deeply disappointed that we asked it of him.

I'm trying to think of something better to say in this thread and failing. Hear, hear.
posted by brundlefly at 9:17 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

googly, et al: let's all not feed the thread hi-jackers. let's keep the focus on staff sgt. giunta. he's earned the attention and the glory.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:18 AM on November 17, 2010


Thanks for asking for clarification. No, I'm not trying to say that the ceremony is war propaganda, or that Giunta is a dupe or anything but a fine soldier. I was reminded of the poem as I listened to the interview with him here. I think he does a fine job of dispelling any romantic notion that the honor he so deserves may instill in "children ardent for some desperate glory."

As we've seen with Pat Tillman and others, some would distort and use what are essentially tragic stories to further their own agenda.

A few of the preceding lines:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

This is an ordinary man who did something remarkable and brave. Ultimately, however, it is a tragic story.
posted by Shike at 9:28 AM on November 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

I think I see what Shike is getting at; it's the same reason why the "Badass of the Week" link left me cringing. This man acted bravely in a harrowing situation and deserves commendation from his higher-ups for his actions. The way the site linked to in the first comment reported the incident, however, glorifies the action to an almost obscene degree.
posted by dazed_one at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Amazing story, incredible guy, and btw, Obama's got a future as Tom Clancy's successor if this whole leader of the free world thing doesn't work out.
posted by ericbop at 9:57 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Iowa represent.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:10 AM on November 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

"Winning" a medal like that is the result of doing absolutely the right thing in the sort of situation you never, ever want to face. The Army has a website that has the citations for every medal awarded going back a very long time. Every one of those reads as a rendition of the Worst Day of Someone's Life (While People Are Trying to Kill Him). For an awful lot of them, it's also the last day.

I hope his buddies rest in peace. I'm glad he's being recognized for his actions.

It might be nice to save the commentary on the war itself for another thread. There have been plenty, and will be plenty more.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:11 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the clarification, Shike. I agree that stories like Giunta's (and Tillman's) can too easily become fodder for the kind of obscene propaganda that the "Badass of the Week" represents. But I also feel like the predictable "love the soldier, hate the war" comments are guilty of the same sort of hijacking, though perhaps to a lesser degree. One takes the story of a brave person's act and screams "this is why WAR IS GOOD!" while the other takes the story of a brave person's act and screams "yes but WAR IS BAD!" Either way, the story itself merely becomes a means for making a larger political point.
posted by googly at 10:14 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, as a 25 year old native Iowan myself, this guy makes me look at my own life and think: I have no balls.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:15 AM on November 17, 2010

The Army has a website that has the citations for every medal awarded going back a very long time.

I did a post on it a while back. It's full of flat-out amazing stories. I quoted this one:


He was the leader of a combat patrol on 21 December 1944 near Grufflingen, Belgium, with the mission of driving German forces from dug-in positions in a heavily wooded area. As he advanced his light machinegun, a German Mark Ill tank emerged from the enemy position and was quickly immobilized by fire from American light tanks supporting the patrol. Two of the enemy tankmen attempted to abandon their vehicle but were killed by Cpl. Thorne's shots before they could jump to the ground. To complete the destruction of the tank and its crew, Cpl. Thorne left his covered position and crept forward alone through intense machinegun fire until close enough to toss 2 grenades into the tank's open turret, killing 2 more Germans. He returned across the same fire-beaten zone as heavy mortar fire began falling in the area, seized his machinegun and, without help, dragged it to the knocked-out tank and set it up on the vehicle's rear deck. He fired short rapid bursts into the enemy positions from his advantageous but exposed location, killing or wounding 8. Two enemy machinegun crews abandoned their positions and retreated in confusion. His gun Jammed; but rather than leave his self-chosen post he attempted to clear the stoppage; enemy small-arms fire, concentrated on the tank, killed him instantly. Cpl. Thorne, displaying heroic initiative and intrepid fighting qualities, inflicted costly casualties on the enemy and insured the success of his patrol's mission by the sacrifice of his life.

posted by Bookhouse at 10:26 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I saw the 60 minutes segment on this story - Giunta describes what happened and his reactions. I was brought to tears. I have so much respect for his service, for what he did and how he has expressed himself when asked about this incredible honor. Here's a followup segment with Sgt. Giunta and his wife, also from 60 Minutes.
posted by bluesky43 at 10:39 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

According to a Christian Lobbyist "We Have Feminized the Medal of Honor".
posted by Megami at 10:44 AM on November 17, 2010

As a female former soldier, Bryan Fischer can go fuck himself. And I notice he doesn't exactly seem to be a combat veteran himself. It's always the cowards who salivate for death and destruction, apparently. What an obscene and morally bankrupt understanding of valor.
posted by lullaby at 11:06 AM on November 17, 2010 [15 favorites]

Crazy lobbyist is crazy. Film at eleven.

Seriously, I hope that doesn't turn into a derail. Fischer is ridiculous, any person with half a brain can see he's ridiculous. Fifty comments here saying the same aren't going to help anyone.
posted by axiom at 11:17 AM on November 17, 2010

Whether you agree with Fischer or not, that Mother Jones article is an incredibly dishonest portrayal of what he actually says.
posted by Jahaza at 11:21 AM on November 17, 2010

Weinstein (the Mother Jones writer) also seems pretty ignorant of the missions of various parts of the military:

Telling Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Green Berets, and Marines that they should NOT primarily be intelligence gatherers or civil-affairs experts or peacemakers.

The 75th Ranger Regiment is primarily a direct action strike force. It is not primarily any of those things:
The 75th Ranger Regiment is a lethal, agile and flexible force, capable of executing a myriad of complex, joint special operations missions in support of U.S. policy and objectives. Today’s Ranger Regiment is the Army’s premier raid force. ... Their capabilities include air assault and direct action raids seizing key terrain such as airfields, destroying strategic facilities, and capturing or killing enemies of the Nation.
. The Marine Corps will also be amused to learn about what is now their primary mission.
posted by Jahaza at 11:41 AM on November 17, 2010

I am deeply disappointed that we asked it of him.

Staff Sargeant Guinta was not fighting for America. At that moment he was fighting for his friends. And he'll never be able to look at that damned medal without thinking about them.

Some fucking honor.
posted by three blind mice at 2:33 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry. "They" deserve more than a pronoun.

Sargeant Joshua Brennan and Sergeant Hugo Mendoza were killed in the action.
posted by three blind mice at 2:39 PM on November 17, 2010

This recent Atlantic Magazine article, about a unit's horrific last days in Afghanistan, is the saddest and most illuminating thing I have read about the war:

In September 2009, the second platoon of Charlie Company arrived in Afghanistan with 42 men. Ten months later, nearly half had been killed or wounded, mostly in the Arghandab Valley—a key to controlling southern Afghanistan. Now these 82nd Airborne troops were getting ready to leave the Arghandab behind. They had one more dangerous job to do: a joint mission with the untried artillery unit that would replace them patrolling the fields, orchards, and villages they called the Devil’s Playground.
posted by LarryC at 8:39 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

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