Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta has been named the 2011 recipient of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl’s Great American Patriot Award. The award will be presented by Armed Forces Insurance, the sponsor of the award and the official insurance partner of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. SSG Giunta officially received the prestigious Medal of Honor on November 16, 2010 for his exemplary service in Afghanistan. He was the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.
In selecting a Great American Patriot Award recipient, the candidate must be of high moral fiber and good character, having spent his or her career serving the common good of the United States. He or she will have gone beyond the call of duty to serve and protect this country, with proven dedication and loyalty in upholding the Constitution and the laws of the nation. Finally, the Great American Patriot Award winner will have worked tirelessly to make the U.S. a better and safer place for all its citizens. Staff Sgt. Giunta will join an elite list of previous Great American Patriot Award recipients, including Admiral Thad Allen, Admiral Michael G. Mullen, General David H. Petraeus, Pete Geren and Gordon England.
“We are tremendously honored to have Staff Sgt. Giunta both coming to our kickoff luncheon and bowl game,” said Brant Ringler, executive director of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. “He is unquestionably a deserving recipient of our award, embodying all of the criteria we take into account when selecting a recipient.”
SSG Giunta enlisted in the U.S. Army in November of 2003. After attending Infantry One Station Unit Training and the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Ga., Giunta was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy, on May 24, 2004. He has taken part in seven training deployments to Germany and two training deployments to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany. He also participated in two combat deployments to Afghanistan, the first of which was during Operation Enduring Freedom VI from March 2005 to March 2006. A little over a year later he left for his second combat deployment to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom VIII, from May 2007 to July 2008.
On October 25, 2007, during this second deployment, Staff Sgt. Giunta’s platoon was ambushed in eastern Afghanistan. Giunta was a specialist serving as a rifle team leader at the time. For his extraordinary gallantry, unrivalled courage, and selfless leadership in action that day, President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Giunta in a White House ceremony on November 16, 2010.
Staff Sgt. Giunta will formally accept the award from chairman of Armed Forces Insurance, COL Tom Dials (U.S. Army, Ret.) during halftime of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl game on December 30.
"One of the most remarkable attributes of our 85 living Medal of Honor recipients is the shared sense that each holds the medal in ‘trust’, honoring those servicemen and women who have selflessly gone in ‘harm’s way’ in furtherance of the security of the nation," said COL Tom Dials (U.S. Army, Ret.), chairman of Armed Forces Insurance. "SSG Giunta continues this honored tradition into today’s military. He is, as are all recipients, a national treasure. AFI has the privilege of honoring his service and sacrifice with this year’s Great American Patriot Award."
Giunta, known as a humble and modest individual, grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School before joining the Army in 2003. His list of accolades includes the Medal of Honor, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (with one bronze oak leaf cluster), Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, among many others. He currently lives in Fort Collins, Colo. with his wife, Jen, and daughter, Lily.