Medal of Honor Recipient Salvatore Giunta 'As Humble as He Is Heroic'

Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta recognized for heroic actions in Afghanistan.

ByABC News
November 16, 2010, 1:26 PM

Nov. 16, 2010— -- Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta became the first living service member awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq at a White House ceremony this afternoon.

The medal has been awarded posthumously seven previous times for those wars.

Giunta received the medal for his heroic actions in a firefight in Afghanistan three years ago.

At the start of the ceremony, President Obama digressed from his script and ad libbed, "I really like this guy," a comment that drew loud applause and cheers from the audience of dignitaries, family and friends gathered in the White House East Room.

"We all just get a sense of people and who they are," Obama said. "And when you meet Sal and you meet his family, you are just absolutely convinced that this is what America's all about, and it just makes you proud. And so this is a joyous occasion for me, something that I have been looking forward to."

Giunta has told interviewers that any other soldier would have done what he did on the night of Oct. 25, 2007, when his platoon was ambushed by the Taliban in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan, an area so dangerous to American troops it was dubbed the "valley of death."

President Obama praised Giunta as a soldier who is "as humble as he is heroic," who has said that "he didn't do anything special, that he was just doing his job, that any of his brothers in the unit would do the same thing."

"You may believe that you don't deserve this honor," Obama added, "but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it."

Obama said Giunta risked his life for his squad mates "because they would risk their lives for him. That's what fueled his bravery -- not just the urgent impulse to have their backs but the absolute confidence that they had his."

He noted that Giunta has said of them, "they are just as much of me as I am."

Before he placed the medal and its iconic blue ribbon around Giunta's neck, Obama described in gripping detail the heroism he displayed the night his unit was ambushed.

Watch ABC News' Interview with SSG Giunta on being awarded the Medal:

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