Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta said his head has been spinning since he received a call from the president last week congratulating him for earning the Medal of Honor for his battlefield heroics. "I'm a regular line soldier, so this has been a whole different world for me."
Giunta, who later this year will become the first living soldier from Afghanistan to receive the award, said the media attention and calls from dignitaries has made him excited and proud, but it's also left him "bittersweet" because of the friends he hasn't been able to share the honor with.
"(My unit) is currently deployed, so for me to fully accept this I need to have around me those guys who stood by me," he said. "And it does bring back memories of people I'd like to share this with who I can't. They gave everything for this country, and because of that we're not going to be able to share this moment together."
Giunta recounted some of the details of the October 2007 battle during the press conference, but spent most of the time downplaying his own heroism and speaking instead about the everyday heroics of his fellow servicemembers.
"In this job, I'm mediocre. I'm average," he said. "This was a situation I was put in. By no means did I do anything that others wouldn't have done."
Still, the 25-year-old said he is excited that his unit is getting more attention because of his award, and humbled at their pride in his actions. Early in the press conference Giunta joked about the bright lights and uncomfortable earpiece needed for the press conference, but he appeared much more at ease when the topic turned to "how great the average soldier is," in his words.
When asked if he considered himself a hero, Giunta answered immediately: "If I'm a hero, then every man who stands around me, every woman in the military, every person who defends this country is."