'War' excerpt about Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta

For veterans by veterans

Stars and Stripes Published: September 10, 2010

This excerpt, about Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore Giunta, is from the book "War" by Sebastian Junger. Reprinted with permission from Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

From Chapter 2

The soldiers walk single file along the crest of the spur spaced ten or fifteen yards apart. The terrain falls off steeply on both sides into holly forests and shale scree. The moon is so bright that they're not even using night vision gear.

Unknown to Winn and his men, three enemy fighters are arrayed across the crest of the ridge below them, waiting with AK-47s. Parallel to the trail are ten more fighters with belt-fed machine guns and RPGs.

In the U.S. military, this is known as an "L-shaped ambush." Correctly done, a handful of men can wipe out an entire platoon. Walking point is Sergeant Josh Brennan, an alpha team leader.

He's followed by a SAW gunner named Eckrode and then Staff Sergeant Erick Gallardo and then Specialist Sal Giunta, bravo team leader.

Giunta is from Iowa and joined the Army after hearing a radio commercial while working at a Subway sandwich shop in his hometown.

"Out of nothing out of taking your next step just rows of tracers, RPGs, everything happening out of nowhere with no real idea of how it [expletive] happened -- but it happened," Giunta told me. "Everything kind of slowed down and I did everything I thought I could do, nothing more and nothing less."

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