Skip to content

Why the Medal of Honor Recipient is a Shining Example

November 29, 2010

Why the Medal of Honor Recipient is a Shining Example

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor conferred by the United States, for his incredible valor.  President Obama presented it to him on October 25, 2010. He is the first living recipient since the Vietnam War, and he is more than a military hero, he is truly a role model.  President Obama commented that Sgt. Giunta is as humble as he was heroic. He is that and much more.

Salvatore Giunta is a man who truly lives his values. His action in Afghanistan and his reactions since vividly display his commitment to several core values, including loyalty, teamwork, humility, righteousness, service to others, duty, trustworthiness, compassion, courage, and self-discipline. In rushing to the aid of a fellow soldier he thought was shot and pinned down, and then rescuing Sergeant Joshua Brenna from the clutches of the Taliban, all while under intense fire, what he did was extraordinary. He considers it ordinary – simply doing what was right and expected.

The Taliban had ambushed his patrol with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. Sgt Giunta describes it: “There were more bullets in the air than stars in the sky. A wall of bullets at every one at the same time with one crack and then a million other cracks afterwards. They’re above you, in front of you, behind you, below you. They’re hitting in the dirt early. They’re going over your head. Just all over the place. They were close—as close as I’ve ever seen.”

In commenting to questions about his worthiness in being awarded the Medal of Honor, Sgt. Giunta said.”I’m not at peace with that at all. In this job, I am only mediocre. I’m average. . . And coming and talking about it and people wanting to shake my hand because of it, it hurts me, because it’s not what I want. And to be with so many people doing so much stuff and then to be singled out—and put forward. I mean, everyone did something.” He also explained that he took action because everyone else was engaged in other vital activities. He is convinced that he could not have rescued squad leader Erick Gallardo and Sgt. Brenna (who died later from his wounds) without others on his team doing their jobs extremely well.

In this day and age when we seem to be searching for great role models, Salvatore Giunta stands before us as a shining example. The hardest time to demonstrate your true values is when you own life and safety are at risk. Our own survival instincts kick in. The U.S. military instills an ethic about taking care of and protecting fellow soldiers. They want extraordinary behavior to be ordinary especially under extreme pressure.

It is so easy to put our own interests ahead of the needs of others, even in non-life-threatening situations. I remember the slogan from a decade or so ago, “Look out for number 1,” which exemplified this “me first” attitude. One of the lessons I have learned is that I am enriched when I extend myself to others and make the extra effort – even if not nearly as extraordinary as what Salvatore Giunta did – to help someone else.

Perhaps we should all embrace the concept of “others first” and discover how fulfilling and rewarding it can be and the good it can do. The next time you are looking for an extraordinary role model, think of Salvatore Giunta.

*             *             *

If you enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in “What’s Leadership? What’s Values-Guided Leadership?

We post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Wednesday’s post will be “What Does It Mean to Be a Lost Soul?”

Steve Weitzenkorn

Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D., is a learning innovator, organizational advisor, experienced facilitator, and lead author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Copyright © 2010 F3 Forum, LLC. All rights reserved.

LIKE our page on Facebook!


5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2010 6:37 am

    Excellent article! Great insight and very well-written. Thank you for visiting my blog and recommending that I visit yours… I will be following yours and will add it to my blogroll. Also, if you don’t mind, I would like to repost this article… I think my readers would enjoy it.

    • November 29, 2010 6:57 am

      Thanks for your feedback and visiting my blog. I’d be honored if you repost it. I’ll be recommending your blog as well.
      All the best,

  2. November 29, 2010 2:10 pm

    He may be a lovely kid somewhere beyond his conditioning that allows him to murder other human beings, however, I will never honor war or anyone that partakes in a process of killing other people they do not even know because someone said they should. And who are the people that give these orders…do they have compassion and integrity? I am really taken back by this post. And I say this with no disrespect to Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta. Is this an American thing? Meaning, whatever Americans do is noble and right? Well you may be interested to know that people from outside your country do not condone your actions of terror and violence against other belief structures different to your own. America has abused the word “terrorist” to their own advantage. All use of violence to achieve something is an act of terror.

    Maybe you could broaden this post out by honoring the boy and the people that he has killed….they are all lost deluded souls fighting over nothing. Expand the discussion to acknowledge that war is full of lies and deception on both sides of the fence! Everyone knows this. It is 2010 isn’t it? To not know this would be like saying I did not know that the animals I eat suffered a horrible life before they were killed to satisfy my greed. What a species we are. Lets stop telling ourselves what we want to hear and lets get real for once about the reality of human thought!

    Find what?

    Fulfill what?

    Flourish what?

    You are not displaying the qualities of a person that uncovers truth, but rather one that looks at what suits to create more misguided pathways in this world…..that is how it appears as an outsider. I am not sure you understand the functioning of the human mind and the powerful delusional effects that fear creates in the human brain. I hope you explore what I am saying rather than running away and defending, and I say this because you are putting yourself forward as a guide and mentor on life.

    RE THIS COMMENT…I understand if you do not not post it as it was really just for you anyway.

    Thanks, David.

    • November 29, 2010 8:01 pm


      Thanks for sharing your perspective and suggestions on this post. I appreciate your strong position on this subject and your comments are well taken. My intention is not to focus on the morality of war, the one in Afghanistan or elsewhere, but to highlight one person’s character in a very challenging situation — along with how he handled the recognition he received. We may have a philosophical difference of opinion on all of this, which is fine. That’s one way we can learn from each other.

      Thanks for investing the time to comment and share your thoughts.



  1. Why the Medal of Honor Recipient is a Shining Example (via Find – Fulfill – Flourish) | Questioning With Boldness…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: