MADISON (WKOW) -- Three years after Sgt. Joshua Brennan of McFarland was killed during an Afghan ambush, his friend and fellow soldier is recognized by the president.
The White House announced today that SSgt. Salvatore Giunta (pronounced JOON'-tuh) will receive the medal of honor.
What started in a remote valley of Afghanistan in October 2007 came back to McFarland today in a story that's already captured the country's imagination.
In a quiet neighborhood in McFarland a family proudly displays a memorial to their fallen son, Joshua Brennan. A few blocks away, situated on the shaded edge of a small cemetery, is Brennan's final resting spot.
But Brennan's body almost never made it home. After he was mortally wounded during an ambush in Afghanistan's Korangal Valley in October 2007, Taliban fighters began dragging him away.
Giunta, who was leading the patrol, charged into enemy fire, killing one enemy fighter and wounding another before dragging Brennan back. A few minutes earlier, Giunta had rescued another soldier too.
"Very proud," James Richel, Brennan's step-grandfather, said of Giunta. "I'm glad he's being recognized for what he did."
Richel says even though Josh later died from his wounds, Giunta deserves special recognition for putting his life on the line trying to save Josh.
"If you can do that you deserve everything you can get," he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Berry, commander of the Odana Road Recruiting Station, says Giunta will be the first living recipient to receive the medal since the Vietnam War. He said most Medal of Honors are awarded posthumously, because winning the medal goes beyond bravery.
"When you're putting your life out there for somebody else, you put the value of somebody else's life over your own," he said.
Giunta has said repeatedly that he doesn't want the medal, and that he was only doing what any soldier would have done. But his and Brennan's story are part of a new book called "War" by Sebastian Junger, and the movie "Restrepo," the name of the nearby army outpost. And with the Obama's announcement their story is becoming widely known.
Berry said just knowing what Giunta did makes other soldiers feel proud.
"It makes you feel sad, too, if you read the story and understand that the person he was trying to save was his best friend," Berry said.
The White House has not announced when and where Giunta will get the medal. But it will be personally awarded by Obama himself.
FROM THE WHITE HOUSE WEBSITE:
ACTION FROM WHICH THE MEDAL OF HONOR WAS EARNED:
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 ambush split Specialist Giunta's squad into two groups, he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a comrade back to cover. Later, 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 defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American paratrooper from enemy hands.