Transcript: ABC News' Martha Raddatz Interviews Tim Hetherington

War photographer discussed Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giuntas' bravery in 2010

ByABC News
September 14, 2010, 5:59 PM

Sept. 14, 2010— -- The following is a transcript from ABC News' Martha Raddatz's phone interview today with author and photographer Tim Hetherington on what it was like to document soldiers' lives in a U.S. platoon based in Afghanistan. Hetherington was also there when Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta put his life on the line to save his comrades.

Martha Raddatz: I would first like, Tim, your reaction when you found out that [Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta] became the first recipient, the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam.

Tim Hetherington: It's an amazing thing to hear they're finally giving out a Medal of Honor to a soldier from the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been six or seven, I think, posthumously, but never one before to a soldier that's alive, and considering how many acts of selfless bravery are being carried out every day out there, it's a wonder that someone hasn't been awarded one sooner. But having said that, what Sal did out there was pretty exceptional, I mean, many big guys out there are ready and trained and do these things that they wouldn't even call brave, but Sal had the opportunity to do that and he did it, and his actions in bringing back Josh Brennan from enemy hands, I think, I'm just thinking about what it means for the parents of Josh Brennan, and unfortunately he died, but at least he managed to rescue him from the clutches of the enemy. Probably a soldier's worst nightmare is to be taken off by them, so it was an amazing action.

Raddatz: And could you in your words describe that. We have read descriptions but you were there in that opearation, not specifically I know seeing that one, but from what you know, your description.

Hetherington: I mean, the thing about the wars in Afghanistan, they've been known as the ghost wars, you know, because not often does one really see the enemy. You know, you're fighting sometimes at distant, but they're very elusive, the insurgents, and on the night of the 25th of October, you know, Sal Giunta finally came face to face with them and when he did, it was because they were dragging off his friend Joshua Brennan. They'd been trapped in an ambush, an L-shaped ambush, which is a sophisticated kind of military ambush, a type the Americans would carry out, and they were being shot at very close range, I'd guess 15 or 20 feet and, you know, a lot of people were hit and two were killed in that ambush and you know, Sal Giunta wanted to push on ahead, he realized that the line that he was in, that his platoon had been broken by the ambush and that he realized that one of the soldiers, his friend Josh Brennan, must be up ahead and on his own and he went on to find him through a kind of hail of bullets, throwing grenades as he went and eventually when he reached the end he didn't find his friend, you know, on his own -- he found him being dragged off by two insurgents and he killed one of them and the other one went away and he managed to then drag his friend back to the safety of some of the other platoon members.