Salvatore Giunta, the Iowan awarded the Medal of Honor in November 2010, now has another entry to his star-spangled resume: A book.
“Living with Honor: A Memoir” (Threshold Editions, 304 pages, $26). will be available Dec. 4.
Giunta, a Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School graduate, says in an interview last week that his memoir is the story of “an average American. It highlights service … and gives an idea of the normal people fighting this war.”
It also underscores the notion, he says, that “we’re all capable of doing something great.”
For Giunta, that moment of truth came five years ago, on the moonlit night of Oct. 25, 2007, when his Army patrol was ambushed in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. A bullet smashed into Giunta’s body armor, but he fought off insurgents, rescuing two of his fellow soldiers.
Three years later, Giunta’s courage under fire was honored in a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. He was the first living American to receive the medal, the nation’s highest military decoration, for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“I didn’t intend on writing a book,” says Giunta, who’s now 27 and living in Fort Collins, Colo. “But it seemed important, a way to mention some of the many people in my life who’ve raised me and made me the man I am. I have received so many accolades, and people think I did something special. But not really. A large group of people have done as much as me.”
The hardest part in telling his story, he says, was that “I didn’t want to say anything untrue but wanted to be comfortable with what was said publicly. I’m a little anxious because I really would like my friends to be happy with this (book). There are some things that stir up emotions, frustrate and anger me and cause me real questions.
“I want my buddies to be OK with the book. I want their names to be out there because they’re heroes, and they deserve to be recognized as heroes. My name is heard but not theirs.”
Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor recipient in the Vietnam War, encouraged Giunta to write the book and connected him with a literary agency. The agency, in turn, introduced him to Joe Layden, who listened to Giunta’s stories and shaped the “Living with Honor” manuscript.
“It’s been quite a ride” since the Medal of Honor ceremony, Giunta says, with appearances on late-night television, NFL and college football games and public events.
“A lot of people … tell me where to be, what uniform to dress in, who I’m talking to,” he says. “I speak from the heart and tell the truth all day. That makes it easy. People seem to like the story they hear.”
Giunta, the son of Steve and Rosemary Giunta of Hiawatha, left the military in early 2011. He and his wife, Jenny, who is originally from Dubuque, have a daughter, Lillian Grace, born a year ago.
And while he misses the military — “the camaraderie, the guys, common goals, the teamwork” — Giunta says his life is full and busy, with a book tour coming up. (No details on that yet.) When life settles down a bit, he plans to attend Colorado State University.
“I am a product of my environment,” Giunta says. “There’s no way I can take credit. Cedar Rapids has been such a large part of my life. It helped shape me and mold me. I’m happy to be from Iowa, a place with good values, good people and great opportunities.”