Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington did a war documentary chronicling the men of B Company during their yearlong deployment in the Korengal Valley. The documentary Restrepo won the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Restrepo will have its world television premiere on the National Geographic Channels, unedited and with limited commercial interruption, on Monday, November 29, 2010, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta of the 173rd Airborne became the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. His actions occured in Afghanistan’s Korengal valley during the deployment chronicled in the movie ‘Restrepo’. Below is a 14 minute Sal Guinta video by Junger/Hetherington. You can also read the complete text of Tim Hetherington’s interview with him on Vanity Fair.
What else sticks in your mind about the Zabul Province deployment?
On September 1, 2005, Lieutenant [Derek Haines] died in the Baylough area, and that made me really feel my own mortality at 19 or 20. My team leader, Nicholas Post. talked to me. He said, “It is what it is and you just got to try to do everything you can when it’s your time to do it. It might be you tomorrow. It might be me tomorrow. It might be, you know, all of us tomorrow. But that’s tomorrow.” I’ve pretty much taken that with me the rest of my life from the time we had that talk.
Did you re-up after Zabul, or had you signed up for a certain length of time?
I signed up for four years when I came into the army. I didn’t think that I was going to go again, but Stop-Loss. I didn’t really understand Stop-Loss, until Stop-Loss.
So as a result of Stop-Loss you went to the Korengal?
We were in the Korengal, but I couldn’t leave the Korengal as a result of the Stop-Loss, yes.
When did you first hear that you were going to be up for a Medal of Honor? It was some time after you returned from the Korengal, wasn’t it?
It was a couple of days later that I heard. Sergeant Gallardo went down for a meeting and came back up and told me. That’s when I found out.
What went through your head when you heard about it?
“Fuck you,” I said. It sounds really awesome in theory, but what’s it worth? Brennan? Mendoza? No. I did what I did because in the scheme of painting the picture of that ambush, that was just my brush stroke. That’s not above and beyond. I didn’t take the biggest brush stroke, and it wasn’t the most important brush stroke. Hearing the Medal of Honor is like a slap in the face. I don’t think you know what I did. I didn’t do shit.
What does the Medal symbolize for you?
I want to stress the fact that this is the nation’s highest honor. Awesome. And it’s given to me, but just as much as me, every single person that I’ve been with deserves to wear it—they are just as much of me as I am. This isn’t a one-man show. I’m here because someone picked me. I hope that everyone around me can share in whatever pride that comes from it. They deserve that pride.
And here is President Obama:
“You may believe that you don’t deserve this honor, but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it. In fact, your commander specifically said in his recommendation that you lived up to the standards of the most decorated American soldier of World War II, Audie Murphy, who famously repelled an overwhelming enemy attack by himself for one simple reason: “They were killing my friends.”