The dozen people at the first Gazette Book Club discussion group agree “Living with Honor” is a book well worth reading and that Sal Giunta, its author, is a likable, impressive man, in addition to being a hero.
Giunta, who grew up Hiawatha, received the Medal of Honor two years ago for his actions in combat in Afghanistan. He also showed his mettle in December when he signed hundreds of books and posed for just as many pictures during a book-signing that lasted until 1 a.m. at Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Cedar Rapids.
Susy Jones found Giunta’s memoir “very personal,” relating how she and her 12-year-old grandson, Koy, waited till 12:30 a.m. that evening for a moment with the hometown hero. Koy had a question about the SAW machine gun. Giunta answered that the weapon he trained on and used in Afghanistan was a fine gun.
Giunta’s personal account of growing up in Hiawatha and in the Army, Jones said, “gave me hope.”
Julia Bickel of Cedar Rapids said the book — “the realism, the conditions” — helped her better understand what her father went through in World War II, when he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Several of those at the Tuesday night discussion at New Bo Books were struck by Giunta’s account of “the single most disappointing thing” that happened to him in the Army. Giunta was at an airport when a woman asked him where he was headed. He said Afghanistan. She said, “I’m glad you’re going to be safe.”
Giunta realized the woman was trying to be encouraging. But he’d been in Afghanistan and knew it as the “difficult and dangerous, maybe deadly” place it was. And yet someone thought he was getting off easy.
Muriel Logan of Marion said she appreciated Giunta’s honesty in his memoir — “he’s not trying to make himself look any better than he is” — and the “look inside the mind of a young man eager to fight” for his country.
“He also helped me understand the differences in fighting in Iraq and in Afghanistan — how one is an urban war, the other not — and dealing with people you don’t trust,” she said.
Patti Roman of Cedar Rapids agreed: “In reading what the conditions are, you appreciate more what soldiers are going through.”
“Living with Honor” (Threshold Editions, 294 pages, $26) was the first selection in The Gazette Book Club.