Our nation’s highest military honor was bestowed upon Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta in November and was the guest of honor today at Disneyland. Joining him at today’s flag lowering was Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo, who served with Giunta in Afghanistan and the recipient of the Silver Star, along with their wives.
Both soldiers and their wives arrived in true Disney style, driven down Main Street in an antique car, followed by the Disneyland Band.
Disneyland Ambassador, René Torrico welcomed Staff Sergeant Giunta and Staff Sergeant Gallardo before a crowd of invited guests from the Orange County Fire Dept and Law Enforcement agencies.
Disneyland Resort President George Kalogridis thanked both men for their service to our country. Along with Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs they unveiled statues of Mickey saluting in front of the American Flag and Bald Eagle. After the ceremony, Staff Sgt. Giunta mentioned that Staff Sgt. Gallardo will have a lot of explaining to do to his children. It seems that Staff Sgt. Gallardo didn’t mention to his children that he was going to Disneyland. He is going to have a lot of explaining to do this evening!
Staff Sgt. Giunta is the 3,449th person to receive the Medal of Honor and the first living person since the Vietnam War to receive it.
For his extraordinary gallantry, unrivalled courage, and selfless leadership in action that day, Staff Sgt. Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony on November 16, 2010. The White House described how Staff Sgt. Giunta earned the Medal of Honor: “Then-Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta distinguished himself by acts of gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifle team leader with Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan on October 25, 2007.
When an insurgent force split Specialist Giunta’s squad into two groups, he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a comrade back to cover. While engaging the enemy and attempting to link up with the rest of his squad Specialist Giunta noticed two insurgents carrying away a fellow soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other, and provided medical aid to his wounded comrade while the rest of his squad caught up and provided security. His courage and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon’s ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow paratrooper from enemy hands.”
The President of the United States of America, took pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Staff Sergeant Erick Gallardo, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving with Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team, in action against the enemy on 25 October 2007, in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Staff Sergeant Gallardo’s aggressive actions, blatant disregard for his own welfare, selfless service, and courageous leadership while under an extreme enemy fire were the determining factors in his platoon overcoming the enemy ambush and preventing a U.S. soldier from being captured. His unwavering example of heroism led to mission accomplishment and prevented many of his fellow Paratroopers from losing their lives.
Disneyland honors our Armed Services daily when lowering the flag at dusk. While the Disneyland Band plays the songs from each branch of service, current and former members of our Armed Forces along with their families are invited to stand at the base of the flag pole. This special event happens in Town Square at 4:30pm daily.