For those of you who missed it here are the details, however, I strongly encourage you to watch the video for yourself.
At the age of just 22, then Specialist Giunta found himself in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, the Korengal Valley. The valley sits close to the Pakistan border and a traditional Taliban stronghold. He notes it is known as the “Valley of Death”. In vivid detail he describes his arrival and notes the trauma on the faces of those leaving to return home. The small outpost became his home for 15 months. While, patrols are almost always dangerous he made specific note that even his time spent off of patrol was so dangerous they would only venture out, under the cover of darkness, to use the bathroom. Fellow squad member, machine gunner Sergeant Brett Perry, described the Korengal Valley as “hell on earth”. “There’s somebody right out there trying to kill you every day. They wake up every day and they wanna kill you,” Perry said.
SSG Giunta described how they were able to listen in on Taliban radio communications referring to Taliban comments regarding their desire to “see if they could get an American body this time”.
On October 25, 2007, while returning from patrol, SPC Giunta , Sgt. Perry and six others were ambushed by Taliban fighters. In a three minute firefight the world of these eight brave men was turned upside down. With Sergeant Joshua Brennan on point, Specialist Franklin Eckrode and squad leader Staff Sgt. Gallardo behind him they were followed by SPC Giunta in the fourth position. The eight were proceeding single file when automatic weapons fire erupted on two sides of them. Ambushed by at least a dozen Taliban fighters with automatic weapons, the Taliban were laying down fire from two directions.
SSG Giunta describes the sounds of RPGs, the sight of muzzle flashes of the Taliban weapons and bullets whizzing by pinning them to the ground. In a moment, that must have been one of abject terror, then SPC Guinta determined his only option was to begin firing his weapon all the while backpedaling to what could only be hoped would be a safer position. As he moved backward he witnessed his squad leader, Gallardo, being struck in the head by a bullet that hit Gallardo’s helmet. As the squad leader fell to the ground he recounted feeling a tug on the back of his collar as Giunta pulled him toward safety. It was then that SPC Giunta himself was hit by two bullets. Describing how he could feel the bullets striking his Kevlar body armor, SSG Giunta referred to a subsequent jolt of adrenaline.
At this point it was clear Sgt. Brennan and Specialist Eckrode had also been hit. The still dazed Gallardo and Giunta then began their charge to protect the two wounded men. Gallardo describes reaching Specialist Eckrode, who had been struck by four bullets, and the Specialist hysterically screaming “They have him!”. Gallardo noted, at the time he did not know to whom Eckrode was referring. We then learn, along with Giunta, that Eckrode was referring to Sgt. Brennan.
With the Taliban continuing to fire, SPC Giunta ran directly to where Brennan had been felled. As he ran he realized two of the Taliban were attempting to carry the wounded Brennan by his arms and legs.
Recognizing the Taliban’s guns were shouldered in their effort to carry the wounded Brennan, Giunta fired and the Taliban dropped Brennan’s body. The badly wounded Brennan was drifting in and out of consciousness but, as Gallardo said of Brennan, “He knew it was us now”.
Brennan later died in surgery. Eckrode survived but Specialist Hugo Mendoza, the squad’s medic did not.
When asked about his actions SSG Giunta noted: “I have never given everything…… Sergeant Joshua Brennan gave everything.”
Tomorrow, Staff Sergeant Giunta will receive the single greatest honor the military can bestow, the Medal of Honor. Describing himself as “a mediocre soldier”, the CBS interviewer challenged him indicating, “That’s pretty good for a mediocre soldier” to which Giunta replied “Think how good the great soldiers are.”
I am constantly in awe of those serving in our military even more so when I remember these are often young adults, in this case just 22 years old.
We are left with mere words to express our everlasting appreciation for all of their sacrifices.
Operation Gratitude sends our deep admiration, respect and thanks to Staff Sergeant Giunta and all our courageous Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who so gallantly guard our freedom, defend our nation and protect each other. Our thoughts and prayers are with you always.