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Medal of Honor Recipient Sal Giunta to Give President’s Lecture Series Address

Sal GuintaSal Giunta

Sal A. Giunta, the first living American to earn the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War and author of the book "Living with Honor," will give the Old Dominion University President's Lecture Series address on Thursday, Nov. 14.

Lauded by President Barack Obama for being "as humble as he is courageous," Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony on Nov. 16, 2010.

Giunta, whose heroic actions during a brutal firefight with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan left him wounded, but saved the lives of several of his comrades, will speak at ODU's Ted Constant Convocation Center at 7:30 p.m. For information or to RSVP to this event, visit: www.odu.edu/univevents (event code: SGL13). The title of his lecture is "Uncommon Valor: The Importance of Teamwork, Sacrifice and Leadership."

Born in Clinton, Iowa, in 1985, Salvatore "Sal" Augustine Giunta decided to enlist at age 17, while working in a Subway sandwich shop. He joined the Army in November 2003.

He attended Infantry One Station Unit Training and the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Ga., before being assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy, in 2004. Promoted to the rank of staff sergeant in 2009, Giunta completed two combat tours to Afghanistan totaling 27 months of deployment.

On Oct. 25, 2007, while conducting a patrol as team leader, Giunta and his team were navigating through the treacherous terrain of Afghanistan's Korengal Valley when they were ambushed by a well-armed and well-coordinated insurgent force. While under heavy enemy fire, Giunta immediately sprinted toward cover and engaged the enemy. Seeing that his squad leader had fallen and believing that he had been injured, Giunta exposed himself to withering enemy fire and raced toward his squad leader, helped him to cover and administered medical aid.

While administering first aid, Giunta's body armor was struck by enemy fire. Without regard to the ongoing fire, he engaged the enemy before prepping and throwing grenades, using the explosions for cover in order to conceal his position. Attempting to reach additional wounded fellow soldiers who were separated from the squad, Giunta and his team encountered a barrage of enemy fire that forced them to the ground. The team continued forward and upon reaching the wounded soldiers, Giunta realized that another soldier was still separated from the element.

Giunta then advanced on his own initiative. As he crested the top of a hill, he observed two insurgents carrying away an American soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other. Upon reaching the wounded soldier, he began to provide medical aid as his squad caught up and provided security.

For his extraordinary gallantry, Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor, making him the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor for service in Iraq or Afghanistan, the first living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War and the eighth service member to receive the nation's highest military decoration for valor in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Giunta's other military decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, two Army Good Conduct Medals and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Giunta retired from the Army in June 2011, and in 2012 authored "Living with Honor." He currently lives in Colorado with his wife, Jennifer, and daughter.

The ODU President's Lecture Series brings to campus speakers who share their knowledge, experiences, opinions and accomplishments. Past speakers have included scientists, writers, educators, historians, Pulitzer Prize winners and other prominent figures. All President's Lecture Series speeches are free and open to the public.