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Living with Honor

Living with Honor

A Memoir

  • reading group guide
There was the sound of a single bullet, and then . . . a deafening barrage of gunfire and explosions. There were, literally, thousands of bullets in the air at once, and more tracers streaking across the sky than there were stars overhead. It was a miracle that most of us weren’t killed instantly.

Staff Sergeant Salvatore, “Sal,” Giunta was the first living person to receive the Medal of Honor—the highest honor presented by the U.S. military—since the conclusion of the Vietnam War. In Living with Honor, this hero who maintains he is “just a soldier” tells us the story of the fateful day in Afghanistan that led to his receiving the unique honor. With candor, insight, and humility, Giunta not only recounts the harrowing events leading up to when he and his company fell under siege, but also illustrates the empowering, invaluable lessons he learned.

As a seventeen-year-old teen working at Subway, Giunta was like any other kid trying to figure out which step to take next with his life after graduating from high school. When Giunta walked into the local Army recruiting center in his hometown, he just wanted a free T-shirt. But when he walked out, his curiosity had been piqued and he enlisted in the Army.

Deployed to Afghanistan, Giunta soon learned from the more seasoned soldiers how “different” this war was compared to others that America had fought. Stationed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the Korengal Valley— also known as the “Valley of Death”—Giunta and his company were ambushed by Taliban insurgents. Giunta went into action after seeing that his squad leader had fallen. Exposing himself to blistering enemy fire, Giunta charged toward his squad leader and administered first aid while he covered him with his own body. Though Giunta was struck by the relentless barrage of bullets, he engaged the enemy and then attempted to reach additional wounded soldiers. When he realized that yet another soldier was separated from his unit, he advanced forward. Discovering two rebels carrying away a U.S. soldier, Giunta killed one insurgent and wounded the other, and immediately provided aid to the injured soldier. More than just a remarkable memoir by a remarkable person, Living with Honor is a powerful testament to the human spirit and all that one can achieve when faced with seemingly impossible obstacles.

***

The President clasps the medal around my neck. Applause fills the room. But I know it’s not for me alone. I look at my mom and dad. I look at Brennan’s parents and I look at Mendoza’s. And I try to communicate to Brennan and Mendoza wordlessly: This is for you . . . and for everyone who has fought and died. For everyone who has made the ultimate sacrifice. I am not a hero. I’m just a soldier.

—Salvatore A. Giunta, from Living with Honor
  • Threshold Editions | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451691467 | 
  • December 2012
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

I should probably warn you at the outset that there is nothing very inspirational or heroic about the early part of my life. There is no military tradition in my family, no long gray line of service that inspired my enlistment. To the best of my knowledge, I have only two relatives who served in the military: a grandfather who did two years in the Navy during World War II, and an uncle on my mother’s side who retired after twenty-one years of service, also in the Navy. Although I’m sure they were decent men who served their country honorably, neither one really inspired me, simply because I never really knew either... see more

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Living With Honor includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

Sal Giunta was an ordinary high school student: fair to middling grades, an after school food service job, and no particular direction. Everything changed when he volunteered for the United States Army. Soon he was doing hundreds of push-ups, waking, eating, and sleeping by command of his drill sergeant. In the Army, he met countless guys like him, from all over the country (and the world) looking for a way to serve their country and protect the band of brothers that is the 173rd Battalion. On his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, Giunta went behind enemy lines to save a friend and mentor who had been captured. As a result, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor, the first person to receive the distinction in four decades. In this frank and open memoir of coming of age in the Army, Sal Giunta offers an inspirational model for anyone looking for a greater purpose in life and a moving testimonial to the men and women he served with in the 173rd Battalion.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. How did September 11, 2001 influence see more

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