Chicago kids get to meet Medal of Honor recipients

December 14, 2010 (CHICAGO)

It is the highest honor one can win in the military. There are only 87 living recipients in the country today. And a small group of boys and girls on the Northwest Side got the chance to ask two of them a few questions.

They stand and applaud as the medal winners enter the room. The crowd is filled with kids, from 6 to 13, and this is a big deal for them. Not only is Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam war, but he's the youngest by 35 years. And when he talks to kids, he relates to them on their level.

The kids wrote letters and made projects to honor Sergeant Giunta and Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Crandall, who was happy to sit in the background and let the newest medal winner do the talking.

Crandall helped save dozens of injured soldiers by flying under intense enemy fire in Vietnam in 1965. He and Sergeant Guinta share a common bond.

"He feels a little guilty about the award, but we all do," said Crandall.

At their age, many of the kids have no way to relate to war in a foreign land, but they seem to realize they have a unique opportunity and they are making the most of it.

"I was really inspired. He made a big mark on my life," said sixth grader Taylor Jackson.

Sergeant Guinta still serves in the Army and is based in Italy. But with the medal around his neck, he is no longer an ordinary soldier, and he realizes his responsibility.

"This is more than me that I'm representing. This is so many service men and women from all branches. I hope I can impact their life in some way," said Guinta.

Crandall lives in Gurnee. He received the medal from President Bush three years ago, 41 years after the battle he was honored for. That battle was the subject of the 2002 Hollywood movie We Were Soldiers.

Sergeant Giunta has been making a number of appearances in the Chicago area over the last few days. But, he says, at 22 years old, he's still a kid himself, and he really enjoys talking to them.

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