HONORING A HERO RIGHTLY
On November 16th, 2010, President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, who served with Company B, Second Battalion (Airborne), of the 503rd Infantry. Giunta is the only Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam era to have survived the actions that earned him the commendation. He is pictured below with his wife Jennifer.
On the night of October 25, 2007, while on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, Giunta's unit was attacked. Taliban fighters deluged the unit with AK-47, large machine gun, and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
Giunta saw several of his fellow soldiers fall wounded. He ran forward, throwing grenades and returning enemy fire, in order to help one of them who had been shot but was still fighting. It was then that he noticed that another wounded comrade was missing.
Searching for his wounded friend Sgt. Josh Brennan, Giunta ran unaccompanied over a hill from where he had drawn Taliban fire moments earlier. He saw two enemy soldiers dragging Brennan away. He ran after them, killing one of the Taliban and wounding the other.
Giunta immediately began administering first aid to Brennan, who had been shot at least six times. Eventually a medic arrived and a helicopter was called to take him to a hospital, where he would thereafter die of his wounds.
But Giunta's action in behalf of his comrade meant that Brennan was not at the mercy of the Taliban and that his parents would be able to provide him a Christian burial instead of wondering what had happened to him after capture.
Giunta himself was shot twice, with one round hitting his body armor and the second destroying a weapon slung over his back. He was, fortunately, not seriously injured.
Giunta's response to this attack further assisted his unit in repulsing the enemy fighters before they could inflict additional casualties.
President Obama stated, "This medal is a testament to his uncommon valor, but also the parents and community that raised him."
Giunta remarked that he was appreciative of having received the Medal, but that the moment was "bittersweet." "I lost two dear friends of mine, Spc. Hugo Mendoza and Sgt. Joshua Brennan. And although this is so positive, I would give this back in a second to have my friends with me right now."
As for myself, I contemplate Sal Giunta's actions and get a knot in my throat. He makes me proud to be an American. What valor! If I were ever to meet the man, all I believe that I could say is, "Sir, it is an honor to be in your presence."
I wish that my thoughts concerning this commendation for a monumental hero were not mixed with gall and loathing, but they are. The ceremony took place in the East Room of the White House. Members of Congress, such as Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd, were invited and were seated on the front two rows. Giunta's family and the families of his fallen comrades, along with other Medal of Honor winners, were seated on the rows behind them.
It is customary for the President, after bestowing the Medal of Honor, to salute the recipient. President Obama did not do so. Furthermore, he shook the hands of Senators and Congressmen before he did those of the families.
Must I say it? Most members of Congress do not belong in the same room with Staff Sergeant Giunta or his family, much less with anyone else who represents courage, honor, or any other virtue. These people should in no way receive preferential seating at a Medal of Honor ceremony. If anything, they should be, and remain, an afterthought.
It is the habit of generals to salute Medal of Honor winners, and it is the practice for the Commander in Chief to do so upon awarding the Medal. I am not interested in listening to the White House spin excuses for presidential oversights and improprieties, because the excuses seem always transparently feeble and scarcely deserve our attention. What does deserve attention is the fact that this President has demonstrated in numerous ways who and what he is, and that makes me sick.
The astute pundit, Charles Krauthammer, has written that he thinks Barack Obama's recent tax compromise will win him re-election. If that turns out to be the case, then the United States of America is a bigger and more hopeless ship of fools than anyone could imagine.
January 3, 2011