Sgt. Giunta's Parents Recall Son's Character-Building Years

By Bruce Aune, Anchor

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - On Tuesday, a soldier from right here in eastern Iowa will receive our nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor.

Army Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta earned this distinction when he risked his own life to save other soldiers during an ambush in Afghanistan.

Earning a Medal of Honor requires courage and heroism. But it also takes a strength of character that develops long before a soldier steps onto a battlefield.

He grew up in Hiawatha, graduating from Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School. He was popular during those school days, and showed few signs of the heroic soldier he'd become.

"He had a great relationship with the teachers," said his mother, Rosemary Giunta. "Anytime I would go in for a conference or something, they'd say, 'He is so much fun. It's so good to have him in my room.' 'How's he doin'?' I'd say, 'Ok, get over the social part.'"

His dad recalls him being adventurous and competitive.

"That adventurous side could be quite challenging from time to time," said his father, Steve. "In hindsight it all looks quite a bit better, but going through it was very adventurous."

But something happened to Sal Giunta back then. You might easily say he just grew up... matured. But he came to understand that he needed a direction in his life.

"He didn't want to just sit back and do nothing," Rosemary Giunta said. "He knew that would never fulfill what he had for his life. He wanted to achieve something, but he wasn't sure what it was."

Sal settled on the Army, enlisting during his senior year at Kennedy. For his parents, the difference in their son came quickly.

"After he went into the military and he was focused up and he grew up and changed from a boy to a man, well it was just night and day," Steve Giunta said.

And he carried with him the values he learned from his parents: A faith in God, a strength of character that he took to the battlefield.

"Sal had a desire to do things right," Rosemary Giunta said. "And he would speak about that desire right there. 'Mom, I want to do things right. I want to leave a mark. I want to be somebody that did it right.'"

Sal did do it right. And his parents will be there Tuesday when the president awards their son the Medal of Honor.

Two parents who couldn't be prouder.

On Tuesday, Bruce will travel to the White House for the ceremony where the President will decorate Staff Sergeant Giunta with the Medal of Honor.

The ceremony starts at 1 p.m. Central time. Watch for his reports from Washington on Tuesday here on KCRG-TV9.
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