Burlington students, parishioner meet national ‘hero’

From left, Dave Miles, Jack Giannettino, Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, Adam Johs and Rich Johs pose at the state capitol Nov. 23.

By Celine Klosterman

Though the Iowa soldier who recently received a Medal of Honor has called himself “average,” two sixth-graders at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High in Burlington were impressed by his courage.

Jack Giannettino and Adam Johs briefly met Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta of Hiawatha Nov. 23 during a ceremony for Giunta at the state capitol. Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor Nov. 16 after risking his life to save two fellow soldiers during an enemy ambush in Afghanistan in 2007.

“I think it was a great experience to see a great hero of our nation,” Jack said. “It is very inspiring to hear the story of his bravery.”

Adam agreed. Giunta “should think of himself as a great soldier, not an average soldier… Though it is very hard to put your life in danger to save your comrades’ lives, he did it himself.”


Giunta is the first living service member to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War and the only veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars to receive the award while alive.

Rich Johs, Adam’s father and a member of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington, said he thought seeing the ceremony for the soldier in person would help the students grasp the importance of Giunta’s actions. “You can tell people about something or show them an article in the newspaper, but they won’t feel the gravity of the event.” 

An Afghanistan veteran and retired sergeant major in the Iowa Army National Guard, he organized the trip to Des Moines. He traveled with friend David Miles, a Vietnam veteran.

“This was a great character building opportunity,” Johs said.

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