NORTH RIVERSIDE (CBS) — Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta is the first living soldier to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.

It was his bravery during a Taliban attack on his platoon in 2007 that earned him the honor. Twice, Giunta ran into the heavy enemy fire to rescue fellow soldiers who had been shot in Afghanistan.

On Monday, National Guard soldiers, veterans and their loved ones wanted to honor him, but Giunta thanked them instead.

“I appreciate you for being my battle buddies, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” he told an appreciative crowd at the Illinois Army National Guard armory in Riverside.

Giunta also reminded everyone of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s not just us that are here now — it’s the ones that can’t speak for themselves because they sacrificed everything so that we can have what we have right now,” he said.

Jean and Bill Harris’s son Josh was one of those soldiers.  He was killed in action in September of 2008 in Afghanistan. Giunta recognized them as he thanked all Gold Star families.

“It seems so strange for me to be the one being congratulated when your family has given so much, has given absolutely everything,” Giunta said

The Harris’ were moved to tears by Giunta’s words.

“It’s just nice to know that people do care,” said Bill Harris, who was there to thank Giunta.

“It was nice to hear that thank you,” Jean Harris said.

Giunta kept his remarks brief, saying he wanted to meet and shake hands with as many of the soldiers and veterans as possible.

He also posed for dozens of pictures. Some of the men and women were heading to Afghanistan themselves, and they said hearing from Giunta has inspired them to be the best soldiers they can be.

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