Yes, congrats William and Kate. But make sure you get to know this story:
At one o’clock today in the East Room of the White House, an Iowa-born soldier will receive the nation’s highest decoration for valor in combat. In our nine-year war in Afghanistan and Iraq, this is only the eighth Medal of Honor. Even more rare, the man who has earned it is the first from this war to live to see the president place it around his neck.
The soldier is Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta. On Oct. 25, 2007, then-Specialist Giunta and his team were on a mountain ridge in Afghanistan’s violent Korengal Valley when they were ambushed by the Taliban. He took a bullet stopped by a protective vest as he helped pull one soldier to safety.
Then he went forward to help the sergeant, Joshua Brennan, who had been walking point. Two Taliban were carrying Sgt. Brennan away. Spec. Giunta shot the Taliban and brought Sgt. Brennan back.
Here we are reminded that in war there are few storybook endings: Sgt. Brennan would soon die of his wounds.
As a speechwriter for George W. Bush, it was my privilege to write speeches for some of these Medal of Honor ceremonies. Words, however, cannot capture what it’s like to watch the surviving moms, dads, brothers, wives and sisters standing up there with a president, hearts bursting with pride over their loved one’s achievement, aching with a loss that will never be filled. Because he has lived, Sgt. Giunta’s ceremony will be a happier occasion.
Not that he’s ready to be called a hero. “I’m not at peace with that at all,” he said on “60 Minutes” Sunday night. “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 . . .”
Sgt. Giunta’s words, of course, remind us that he does not need this ceremony. The ceremony is for the rest of us. It reminds us of the sacrifices made so we can sleep easy at night—and of the kind of fighting man our society has produced.