Home > Military, My Everyday Life, NYC Living, Pics > Medal of Honor recipient SSG Giunta on the Colbert Report

Medal of Honor recipient SSG Giunta on the Colbert Report

as you walk in the offices, priceless

Today started out slow in my world so I left the house, grabbed a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks(Christmas is coming!), then swooped over to Panera to steal some internets.

I caught up on some posts about Veteran’s week (the Gala, Veteran’s Day, and the Giants game) that I hadn’t found time for in the blur of it all. I was already grinning from ear to ear as I engaged my brain and reminisced on the week that had just passed. Meeting Bill Cowher, walking 5th Ave with my brothers and sisters of the military, and football games VIP style are just some of the great memories from last week, but tonight trumped all that.

Let’s back up a couple of days. Tuesday, I along with the entire office at IAVA, watched President Obama award the Medal of Honor to SSG Salvatore Giunta of the US Army for bravery above and beyond the call of duty. I was privy to American history unfolding, but realized that many Americans hadn’t paused to pay respects. I wrote about it that night because I felt that yet again, we had forgotten the war. We go on with life most times without thinking about the men and women that patrol the hills of Afghanistan in those times when we’re taking a warm shower, sipping a peppermint mocha, or tucking our kids in at night. The fact that nearly all channels went on with their regular programming while America awarded a hero for the new generation made me sick. For the ones that have been there, for the ones that empathize with us, they got it. I wrote this so that all those in between could get it too.

on set

While sipping on my mocha and writing about one of my best weeks ever, I received an email inviting me to the taping of the Colbert Report tonight. The final line said, “Special guest I think you’d like, can give more details if you’re interested. What would you say?” Of course I looked at my open schedule and said yes. I immediately looked up who was the guest and I couldn’t contain my excitement. The girls next to me at Panera must have thought me insane. Picture me, a 29 and 11/12s year old man squealing like a little piggy and having to cover my mouth to contain my smile. That’s pretty much the scene as I squirmed in disbelief and put my head down. I was speechless (not squeal-less though unfortunately) at the opportunity laid before me and have been on cloud nine ever since.

I rolled into IAVA HQ by 5, grabbed Todd, Katie, and Michael, then hustled to make the 530 showtime for VIPs. (I might need to get a larger pillow bc my head could be getting bigger with all this VIP action, jokes.) We made it in time, actually grabbed some slices, shared some laughs, then we walked through the studio. I snapped a quick pic of the set before we were again shuttled to the waiting room. There in the waiting room we were privileged to meet SSG Sal Giunta, the first living Medal of Honor recipient since Vietnam. There have been few times in my life when I have been absolutely awestruck and this was one of them. Maybe I stared a little too intently, but this was a real American hero. Not Hulk Hogan, but Sal Giunta.

Katie, Todd, SSG Giunta, me, Michael

We shook hands, told him about IAVA, handed him some swag, then just sat back and listened to him talk about how this award was for “us.” “Us” being the warfighter of the next greatest generation. He was so humble, so down home (I mean that with all proper respect, afterall Im country too) and inviting. Overall he is a genuine soldier and truly authentic person. We snapped a couple of pics in the waiting room, exchanged stories, then left him to prepare for his first appearance since being awarded on Tuesday.

We were escorted to our seats and began the show. Colbert is even funnier live than on TV and the turkey (Mr. Joseph Gobbles) skit tonight absolutely killed me. When Giunta came out wearing his MOH, it felt like my face was going to cramp because I was smiling so hard. You remember when your mom said, “keep making that face and it’ll freeze like that?” Well, I would’ve been happy with a permasmile after tonight. I got a shit-eating grin on my face this very second while I relive this.

Colbert asked him about the mountainside that day. He asked him about the ambush that cost his friends their lives and plunged him into military history. Giunta recounted a censored version of that awful scene until he got choked up toward the end. Colbert helped narrate him through the remainder of the saga and I couldn’t help but get teary. In closing, Giunta said something that will live with me for the rest of my life. “There are so many people who have given every single one of their tomorrows so that we can have our today.” I got chills then, so did Todd Bowers. I still get them here pounding on my keypad.

Hopefully America watched Colbert tonight and were finally privy to what we had seen on Tuesday. A humble man, shying away from the attention his extraordinary actions have garnered him. The face of our generation’s veterans and a real life example of what selflessness is.

Today I met a man who went above the call of duty, sacrificed it all and luckily came home to live out his days a hero. Today I was honored enough to shake a man’s hand that did more than I could ever have done during my time in the military. Today will live with me for all my days. Yet another reason why I love my part-time job, I love my IAVA crew, and I love the life I am afforded to live right now. If it gets much better than this, I might just pop!

Thank you Colbert Report for giving us tickets and giving us the opportunity to meet SSG Giunta. And thank you IAVA for thinking of me when an extra ticket came up. I could not be more sincere when I say that these are the best times of my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  1. ileen
    November 19, 2010 at 13:33

    Thanks for this great write up, and thanks also for your service! Happy Thanksgiving.

    • November 19, 2010 at 14:03

      Ileen, Thank you for taking the time to read this post, but there is no thanks needed when it concerns my service. I am proud to have served. Happy Turkey Day to you too.

  2. Marie E Gnecco
    November 20, 2010 at 11:32

    Hi, mr mathew. grate reviews about the interview of sargent Salvatore Giunta.
    These are the stories the papers don’t promote…and the ones that inspire us beyond our -selves. i will do the difficult things on “my to do” list today.
    Your comments and Mr. Colbert…are the heroes that change the world…one day at a time. i will be nice to everybody i deal with today. i will be pacient, kind and hopefully “do” more thann my duty…because of the Salvatore Giuntas , The steven
    colverts and the mathews of our lives. …Thank you. God is smilling today.

    • November 20, 2010 at 11:57

      Marie, Im glad that you were compelled to make a change in your day to day. I cant take any credit for this, this is more of an interpretive description of what I saw and how I felt as Giunta and Colbert interacted. It was more about the honor I felt while being privy to hearing this man speak. I am only a means of conveyance and interpretation for how a veteran felt while hearing his most compelling story and being able to see this unfold before my eyes. Thank you for your inputs here, cheers.

  1. November 19, 2010 at 14:46

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