The Medal of Honor for One is a Medal of Honor for All
Responses from Staff Sergeant Salvatore Guinta
With Veterans Day just around the corner, and the desire to highlight the brave men and women who fought to protect our many freedoms, to say I was shocked when presented with the opportunity to speak with Staff Sergeant Salvatore Guinta- Medal of Honor recipient- would be an understatement.
Staff Sgt. Guinta, even over the phone, expressed a sort of empathy and humility that could only be admired and attributed to his character and years of service. Our conversation was easy going and marked with humorous moments, yet shed a powerful light on the importance of military appreciation and support, especially in the context of veterans attempting to assimilate back into civilian life. The following dialogue might leave you with a battle cry of “what can I do?”- as it did me.
Photo by Richard Bumgardner, Army
What is your story behind enlisting in the U.S. Army?
I never intended to join the military, but I was a junior in high school when the events of 9/11 unfolded. It was the first time I realized that there are very real threats and attacks on our way of life, and I saw joining the military as a chance to be guided and useful in this fight. Looking back, I was definitely naive; I jumped right in, joining the airborne infantry. I had the choice to go, and I did.
You are the first living person since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor, for your bravery in Afghanistan. At the time, how did you process this significant achievement?
Honestly, since being told I was put in for the honor to when people ask me about it, I have been embarrassed. Although I do recognize what an extreme accolade it is, I was merely put in the position to be brave. Anyone else I was with would have made the same decision I did. Even more so, the brave men and women who are currently out there, daily sacrificing in duty, deserve it. That’s why a while ago, I gave the medal to the 173rd Airborne Brigade back in Italy. I want it to go to the men and women who earn it every single day- that’s the most rewarding aspect of it all.
Do you have any words of encouragement for those still in service?
I’d just say thank you. What you do matters. I know that personally, this life of luxury and freedom comes at a price. I can do the things that I have grown to appreciate more than ever- spending time with friends and family- because the things that have to get done, are done by you.
With Veterans Day coming up, what would you say to veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life?
First, I would say to not worry when the transition seems difficult. It will be, but it is just another evolution to the next mission. I am still experiencing that transition, going back to school, and then finding a job. It’s an active transition that will surely be painful, ugly, and time-consuming, but in the end, is worth it. I am a firm believer that in order to grow, we must pursue our hopes and dreams. Life is full of transitions and evolutions, and we should embrace them.
As a veteran yourself who has made the transition to a civilian job, what would you say to employers who are considering hiring veterans?
So, not every veteran is the right veteran. You can’t necessarily judge everyone off of the few, but my advice is to be mission-oriented. Continue to engage and reach veterans in your applicant pools; put them in positions to thrive. Vets will continue to show up and are sure to benefit any business by bringing another lens to the table.