CHICAGO (WBBM) – America’s newest Congressional Medal of Honor winner answered some tough questions about combat to a crowd of 450 at the Union League Club Tuesday. But he faced a totally different set of questions from children its northwest side Boys and Girls Club.
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S/Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was hardly the rough-and-tough type as he spoke with the 30 children about Army life.
“When we say the Pledge of Allegiance, salute the flag or sing the national anthem, it means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s pretty fun, too. We get to jump out of airplanes, run around and play in the dirt. You do all sorts of cool stuff.”
In fact, the children asked only one question about the combat that won him the Medal…did he get wounded?
“I got shot and it hit the vest and it stopped the bullet,” he said matter-of-factly.
The children were more interested in finding out if he is married (his wife and parents accompanied him), if he has children (no), if he has any pets (two dogs) and where he is stationed now (Italy).
Several of the children put together exhibits honoring Giunta. A child named Malcolm gave him one with red and blue hand prints on white cardboard that read, “My world is safer because of you.”
One student from nearby Roberto Clemente High School recited a poem while another sang a song, both written in Giunta’s honor.
Giunta said he found it to be a welcome change of pace.
“I’m a kid at heart and they’re great,” he said. “It’s cool to be around people you can have fun with. So much of everything lately is very prim and proper and official, and with the kids you can just be yourself. It’s cool.”
He still wears the crown of “hero” uncomfortably.
“It doesn’t really make me a hero,” Giunta said of the Medal of Honor, saying that he tries to “represent” every day for the thousands of U.S. service personnel who have not been recognized as he was.
Also accompanying Giunta was Vietnam-era Medal of Honor winner Maj. Bruce Crandall, who was awarded the Medal in 2007 for service 42 years earlier in Vietnam. Crandall said his story is no different in many ways from Giunta’s.
“Things happen and I had to react and I did what had to be done,” Crandall said.
Even at this distant date, Crandall said, the Medal can change a winner’s life.
“It’s also one of those things you have to live up to,” Crandall said. “I have a good conduct medal that’s harder to explain than the Medal of Honor.”
Giunta has served two tours, totaling 27 months, in Afghanistan. He said he is ready to go back if so ordered.