Service and Honor
By Mike Pritts
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Medal of Honor winner Sal Giunta. I won’t recount the entire valorous event, but I do recommend that you take the time to read the account of what happened on October 25, 2007, and perhaps read Sal’s book, which he wrote to memorialize the men we lost that day. After chatting for a while over a beer, Sal reached into his pocket and pulled out THE medal and handed it to me. I was floored and honored that he would show me such a gesture. When I returned the medal and thanked him, Sal replied, “Don’t thank me, this belongs to all of us.”
I had just finished watching Sal being interviewed at the Pat Tillman Leadership Summit by Jon Krakauer, author of “Where Men Win Glory.” Throughout the interview, Sal was always referring to the actions of others during his contact with the Taliban. Over and over, he mentioned that he was just doing what the Army had trained him for and put him a position to do, and making references to how others were doing more. For example, Sal’s squad leader, SGT Gallardo’s first response, after waking up from being knocked unconscious by a bullet to the helmet, yelled for Sal to throw grenades. Before reaching safety, SGT Gallardo had dismounted Sal and run to help another Soldier in the fight. Over and over during the one-hour interview, Sal continued to praise the actions of those around him, while downplaying his role in saving lives and destroying enemy fighters under the most extreme circumstances.
I was struck by Sal’s humility, and by how he passed on all of the credit for valor that his medal represents to others that were with him during the contact in Afghanistan, even suggesting that we all somehow shared in his award. I was struck by how Sal characterized his service that day as no different than any other day: for and to his brothers that he had deployed with, something most of us in the military identify with.
Why is this important to note?
America needs more men and women who set aside selfish desires and embrace selfless service.
America needs more men and women who are willing to sacrifice the things that society tells them are important and seek to achieve greater collective good.
America needs leaders that embrace difficult situations and show moral courage.
America needs more men and women like Sal Giunta.
To me, selfless service is greater than one event or one day. Selfless service is greater than choosing to serve your country in the military. Selfless service is greater than volunteering to serve your community.
Selfless service is about dedicating your life to something bigger than yourself.
Selfless service is about abandoning I and embracing WE.
Selfless service is about sacrificing today for what may be accomplished tomorrow.