by Pam Zubeck
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, Medal of Honor recipient, will be the torchbearer for the 2011 Warrior Games Opening Ceremony on May 16 in Colorado Springs, the U.S. Paralympics, a division of the Olympic Committee, announced in a press release.
"I'm really excited that I was asked to do this, it's truly an honor for me to kickoff such an amazing competition with so many amazing people" said SSG Giunta. "All of the competitors have faced adversity in some shape or form, and the fact that they have overcome it to not only compete at this event, but live full, quality lives is awesome."
SSG Giunta, who has served in the U.S. Army for almost eight years, became the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, the United States' highest military decoration of valor. SSG Giunta was cited for having saved the lives of members of his squad on Oct. 25, 2007 while deployed in Afghanistan. He exposed himself to enemy fire in order to pull a soldier back to cover when their platoon came under attack. For his bravery, he was awarded the medal from President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House on Nov. 16, 2010.
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said it was a privilege to have Staff Sgt. Giunta as the torchbearer for the event. "He is a true hero who is a role model not only for those taking part in this competition, but for all people in the United States."
Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, SSG Giunta enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after graduating from John F. Kennedy High School. He attended basic training and infantry school at Fort Benning, Ga. and was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade from March 2005-March 2006 and again from May 2007-July 2008. SSG Giunta is transitioning out of the Army and his future plans include returning to school.
The 2011 Warrior Games will take place in Colorado Springs, May 16-21. Approximately 220 wounded, ill and injured servicemen and women from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations will compete in seven sports.
The Warrior Games is one component of the overall USOC Paralympic Military Program, which is focused on providing daily physical activity as an important part of rehabilitation at the community and installation levels. The program isn't about elite performance, rather assisting service members with a physical disability to find enjoyment in activities that are an instrumental part of the rehabilitation process. Through the program, in collaboration with the Department of Defense, physical activity and sports participation rates at Warrior Transition Units, Wounded Warrior Battalions/Detachments and other Wounded Warrior programs throughout the U.S. have increased by 23 percent in the past two years.
SSG Giunta will be available to the media during a brief press conference immediately following the Opening Ceremony.