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Book Review: Living With Honor

We've posted quite a bit about the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan (and Iraq).  Some of the B5 authors have been privileged to meet some of the heroes from that courageous group of paratroopers.  And we've mourned too many of them...

A few years ago, I was honored to be the MC for the premiere of Restrepo in Chicago and host the Q&A after the film for director Sebastion Junger.  I was even more honored to meet Josh Brennan's father.  It was a remarkable experience. You can see video interviews of SSG Giunta here and here - these were done before he received the Medal of Honor.

And please read this review of Living with Honor and interview with SSG Giunta over at From Cow Pastures to Kosovo.

So that brings us to Elise Cooper's own review of SSG Sal Giunta's memoir for BlackFive readers. 

In a way, I think the title of the book should have been "Unbreakable"...it goes along with the Rock's reputation and, of course, the bond between soldiers in combat.  It's not a criticism, it's just how I view those guys:

SalStaff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta, A Medal of Honor Recipient, with Joe Layden has written a memoir, Living With Honor. This is truly a soldier’s story where he allows the American people to get a glimpse of what it is like to be in combat with those who are at first strangers, but then become a fraternity of brothers and sisters. 

He was stationed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the Korengal Valley, known as the “Valley of Death” for its insurgent stronghold.  After being ambushed by Taliban insurgents Giunta engaged the enemy to rescue others from his unit. He administered first aid while he covered his squad leader with his own body, being struck by bullets a number of times.  After realizing that his buddy, Sergeant Josh Brennan, was missing he searched for him, finding him being taken by two insurgents.  He engaged them, killing one and wounding the other. 

After this harrowing experience he told BlackFive.net that he does not understand why these insurgents are not held “accountable for their actions of extremism.  Either we should be fully engaged and fight it properly or we should start sending people over there without guns and lets see if they feel safe.”

He wrote in the book that a soldier’s options are success or death with no margin for error and no opportunity to relax.  He explained, “Decisions have to made in a split second.  This will determine if you will live any longer in this world.  The rules of engagement given to us are not for fighting in a combat country but seem more like what we do in America with people who are for the most part fair minded. ” 

The most powerful parts of the book are the chapters about some of those who served with him.  He regards those men and women as family who “came together under a common flag, the Red, White, and Blue.  I wanted to give insight to the American people on who the soldier was.  Our military is vast and diverse, but it is 100% united, bonded by combat.”

He also talks about his and some of his buddies’ experiences as they returned home.  In one scene Sal tells how he would always tell his wife Jen that he was going to the bathroom.  The reason he included this, “I wanted to show how a soldier must transition from one mindset to another.  In combat everyone knows where you are at; otherwise, you might be in trouble.  After returning home, it was a really strange feeling to be alone.  I am very thankful that my wife is the stable part of my life.”

Living With Honor is a very candid, insightful, and riveting account of Sergeant Giunta’s experiences.   It illustrates the empowering and invaluable lessons he learned about combat and life.  He summarized his story, “I believe in the saying ‘the strongest medals are forged in the hottest flames and the flames of combat are insanely hot.’  We as soldiers have the strongest bond that is unbreakable.”

This is a book that we recommend that all of you should read.