tv Army Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta Discusses Receiving the Medal of Honor CSPAN May 30, 2016 9:00pm-10:02pm EDT
♪ [applause] >> professors from boston university and m.i.t. join a conversation on u.s. dollars in the asia-pacific region. that's live from the wilson center at 10:00 a.m. eastern. at noon, and discussion on the relationship between worker pay, productivity, and the economy. live coverage on c-span. [applause] >> up next we will hear from metal of honor recipient sal g iunta. he spoke earlier this year at the leadership program of the
rockies in colorado springs. [applause] >> this is a very interesting place for me to stand. i can honestly say i'm a product of my environment. i grew up in cedar rapids, iowa, the city of about 120,000 folks, the second-largest city in iowa. my folks were very supportive. they took me by the behind when i needed to and they grabbed the reins when i need to slow down and they scolded me when i did the wrong things. i was a pretty excited young man. i cannot say i was the most excited about school but i was very excited about life. growing up, life was really good. i had every freedom that every american enjoyed at my fingertips and the got to enjoy them. my parents do not lock their doors to their house because people will not come in of they are not welcome. this is where i grew up.
i said i was not a big studier or big on school. one day i was in school and my life changed forever. i was a junior in high school and it was early morning and they were doing the viscosity of liquids. i was not paying attention. someone came to the classroom door and they said turn on the tv a plane just flew into a builing in new york. we don't get to watch tv in the middle of chemistry class but the teacher agreed. before she did, my mind, had this small plane in some big building as a crazy accident. when we turned on the tv, it was not a small plane. it was a huge plane and it was at terrible accident. as we watched the second plane came in. it became apparent that this was not an accident. this was a planned attack on the american way of life, not against our military but on our citizens, on our civilians going about life in america.
it affected me because we are not looking for a fight. we are looking to live and love. and they came for the fight. i got so worked up that i called my mom and i told her that i think i need to quit school and joined the united states army. it was a pearl harbor type of moment and this is what i felt drawn towards. my mother said, absolutely not. you will finish high school. you cannot drop out of high school and joined the army. i said i've got one year and i can do this. this idea of going out of my comfort zone to do something for others, sad to say it became about me and what i will do and what will we do and how can i have fun and when do i have to
work. it stopped being about other people. thinking of the military, that thought slipped away. there is not any military presence in iowa. my junior year finished and my senior year came and i was almost done. life was still very good for me. i had a job, i was a sandwich artist i worked at subway. not my career but it was a job and a put money in my pocket and i was happy. one night and this radio commercial came on and said, and down and see a recruiter and get a free t-shirt. i am mopping the floor at 10:00 at night so of course i want a free t-shirt. that did not sound like a bad deal. i know they will try to sell me something but i came for the t-shirt and i have to keep my eye on the prize. the recruiter said something to me that i did not fully understand. he said it simply. he said you are an 18-year-old able-bodied male everything you
have been given in this life has been given to you freely but it did not come for free. it costs someone else. to truly be part of this country and make a tangible difference in the country that gave you everything, join the united states army. whoo, those were heavy words and i said stick with that, you will get tons of people but i just came for the t-shirt. i almost fell for it. he said to take this test to verify your skills and weaknesses. at that time, my folks were on my back about sat's and not just working at subway but making something of my life and something for others to enjoy as well. i took this long test in the outcome doesn't really matter. about 10 days later, they came back and said that i could do anything i wanted in the united states army has enlisted personnel. no one ever told me that before.
you can do anything you want as long as you review what you did and make it better. go ahead and do whatever you want. it never starts that way. i started thinking, this is true. everything i have has been given to me. i have not earned any of this because i was lucky to be born in america and lucky enough to have supportive parents and that's why i have everything. i'm not responsible for any of my successes. they have all been given to me. i decided to join the united states army. four years sounded like a legit amount of time. i thought i will join the army. they asked what i wanted to do. son of a gun, i did not know there were options. i thought they give you a job. i tried to think quick. if you don't know what you are talking about, they will take advantage of you and sell you something you don't want to buy so say something smart quick. i'm thinking and thinking and there is a parachute hanging from the ceiling of the recruiter's office and i said i want to jump out of a plane.
they said it's extra money. that's exactly what i wanted to do. i want a job with bonuses. they said that's not an actual career choice. what do you really want to do? i don't know. drink, swear, fight bad guys and jump out of a plane and leave iowa. >> say no more, they said that's an actual job, it's called airborne infantry. you will love it, trust me. [laughter] i joined. i joined a country at war. we were in our iraq and afghanistan and i knew i joined airborne infantry and they would send me to war. that's what i came here to do. i showed up to basic training ready to learn to kick indoors and fight bad guys and shoot guns. that's not what you learn first. there is the yelling and chaos they bring to you to show you off.
first and that happened to me in basic training after the push-ups and being yelled at was i got a best friend. i know that because the drill sergeant said you two are best friends. don't leave each other's sides. i was 18 years old. i have three best friends in my life and it took me five minutes to get a new one. gibson and i being best friends, i get paid for my mistakes. gibson did not pay for his mistakes, i did. he was not senior to me and i was not senior to him. we were equal and everything except if i did something wrong, he had to do push-ups. if he did something wrong, i had to do push-ups. we look out for each other out of self reservation. what he did mattered much to me because i was going to get messed up it was wrong. we started caring for each other. that took like one day.
my first met gibson, he was from a haitian family from miami, florida and had gold teeth and i did not understand what he was saying. i said i don't know what you are saying. i said that's not english. he set i've never met anyone like you. i said this will be an interesting partnership. we became friends in a day. over the course of 14 weeks, we became best friends and relied on each other and were better together. we understood that no matter how great i was, i was better than i was when i was with gibson and he was better with me and the team was better as a whole. at the end of basic training, we went our separate ways. the military build people up and they send them all over the place to love other people somewhere else. he went on to fort riley, kansas and i went to air force school. it is super simple. once you jump out of a plane, i promise you you will hit the ground. hopefully the parachute opens and it's relatively soft but it's all guaranteed once you step out that door, you're going down.
but it instills something in you. the only reason we jump out of a plane in combat is because the ground is not secure. that is the airborne mission is to secure the field so not everyone has to jump out of a plane in chaos. that's what we were training to do. once that light turns green, the first cover will go and the second jumper will go in jumping at at 1000 feet you recognize people on the ground and we have a gun strapped to our leg in a parachute owner akin no matter how afraid we are come as long as a person in front of us goes, we will go. then the person behind us will go because it's about bringing the team with us. you're only as strong as the team that lands on the ground. if you've don't you battle the plane, you're not part of that. no matter what, i don't know what's going on out the door but as long as that person goes, i'm going and they're going and we will be there. airborne school finished up and i thought i'm going to iraq for sure.
i went to vincenzo, italy. not iraq. i was not sure about this place. i set i'm ready to fight bad guys and change the outcome of this war. i showed up to help. one of my very first leaders, not a boss but a leader said we as americans do not fight because we hate what lies in front of us. as americans, we fight because we love the light behind us and would love our homes and her way of life and that's why we go over there and fight and don't let the fight come here. that's why we fight, not out of anger or hatred but out of love and caring and compassion. that's different than what i thought it was joining. i showed up and i said i said i'm still ready to fight. at this time 2004, there are very first countries you can go to to find hardened infantrymen between the ages of 18-23. this was the group that jumped into iraq. they spent a year in combat and
came back and i was telling them about how cool i wasn't ready i was to go. it took guidance from people who have been there and done that to rein me in. it was an awkward conversation to have with your new boss, he said i will work you harder than everyone else and it's not because i hate you. i will work you longer not because i dislike your family but it's because i want you to be the best you can be an without me pushing you further than you're willing to go, it will not happen. it sounded terrible. he said i'm going to work harder and longer than everyone and he says it's in my best interest. i did not see it playing out that way. he did much of say it, he proved it every single day. no matter when i showed up to work on he was already there. when i went home from work, he was still there. when i went for a run, we would be doing physical training.
we were in a group of 35 people and he looked at the group and he was in charge of eight of us. what are you guys doing for pt today? we will run and do push-ups and go to the gym. he looked at us and he said we are going to arrive 500 -- five miles and two 400 push-ups until exhaustion. that could be forever if it takes you that long to get exhausted. we could have done one more mile or one more push up or one more sit up and we would have done all -- more than them there it we could have won the war but he wanted a show us how much we could go above and beyond. one of the things is exhaustion. if you go to the gym and you lift weights and you work until exhaustion, it's not a 300 pound weight the comes crashing down your chest.
it's like 45 pounds. you're just stuck under and you're worried of anyone else has seen it. it's about the person to your left and you're right. no matter how much weight it is if it's 300 pounds or five pounds, if you can't do it, you can't do it and that's why we have a team. the person to the left and the right can lift that are off your chest and help you out. its commitment them as long as we are there, we will be better. then we went to war. i can honestly say that short of my children's birth, i have never been more excited for anything in my entire life. i was going to go into something for the country that gave me everything. i was going to get a chance to prove it tangible difference to the country that gave me everything. we showed up to this place called balo about 55 kilometers from any other americans in the low valley with no running water or electricity and we were told that would be our home for the next year. we would build wells and build schools and we would tell them
we've were here to make the lives better and hopefully a year we go by and we would leave the place that are than when we arrived. in that year, we never dug a well, we never built a school. we got shot at every single day in the spring, summer, and fall. we came there to fight had guys so that was ok. about a month and a half in, we went out on patrol 10 kilometers away over two mountain ranges. we did not have vehicles. if it was important, we would have a helicopter. if it wasn't, we would just walk. it was a walk to contact. you walk until someone dislikes you and then they shoot you and that becomes the bad guys and you should've the bad guy and that's another day of work. we walked 10 kilometers. we were carrying 120 pounds worth of gyear and medical supplies.
we got out 10 kilometers and no one shot at us. that was fine with us. we turned around and walked home. as we got ready to turn around and walk home, we got hit right to -- one enemy fighting position with two people in it. they shot down on us straight down the mountain. barberette was our boss and he made the decision. he made the decision to turn us up toward the enemy and charge the enemy's position and close the distance even though they had a superior position. we eliminated the enemy threat. we were going to insert their bodies and find out why they hated us so much. we did not start this fight. this could have been better if they did not do anything but they could not help themselves. we got about 15 meters below the fighting position and the other side of the valley, maybe a
hundred meters, they opened up on us. we were on a steep grade on the side of the mountain. no cover, no concealment and they were opening up on us. the only thing we could do was what we just did, close the distance with the enemy and shoot back and hopefully they would stop shooting at us and this would all be over. we do a bounding overwatch. there were two of us in our group of eight that carried that gun and six people would run while the two of us which shoot and the two of us would run while the six of them which shoot and we continued to close distance on the enemy. we got close down to the bottom of the mountain. it was the first cover i had been behind. i could not be shot by all its and i got down and started shooting in my body -- and my buddy miller comes up to me and i looked at him i said i've got the big gun and i'm shooting, you have to keep on running.
i said this is my rock. he took off running. we had been in combat for a month and been shot at every day for 30 days. i had seen it before. i felt like the bullets were pretty close but who knows? when miller ran out from behind a rock, i watched the bullets chase his feet and missed him by six inches. that's where the dust was popping up. i was scared for him. i started getting scared for myself. i had to come out from behind his rock. because they were going, i would go but not because i'm strong or brave because i don't want to let the team down. i took off running from behind my rock. i was running down the hill and it felt like something at my leg. my left leg went behind my right and i am tumbling head over heels down the side of the mountain. all i could think is that i was 19 years old and i'm in combat and i just got shot. i'd did what i thought i should do and i informed everyone i got shot. it probably wasn't cool but i said i got shot.
as i said this, i am trying to feel my leg and no blood. my arms are bleeding and my head hurt my leg was not bleeding. i started hoping no one heard me. i don't know about your friends, but you say something that's not to smart, they remember forever and they hold it against you as often as they can. if you say you got shot in combat and you did not get shot, they will never let you forget it. [laughter] it was embarrassing. we continue to fight up the helen by the time he got there, we dropped some big tom's from ac-1390. no enemies, we had not been awake for 24 hours and we did not physically push the limit for 24 hours and we were still 10 kilometers from home. we had him most no ammunition and very little water. we had almost no food and everyone seemed fairly fine but we're in the middle of
afghanistan. we had so much allocated in iraq that we were eight guys in the middle of the mountains in afghanistan. we started getting that feeling like knowing cares about me. i got that boo-boo face and started feeling for myself and my leg hurt my hottie was cramping. -- my body was cramping and doing weird things. we were looking at another 12 hour walk back. we call it a goblight, the c-130 has a life that lights up one square kilometer. in night vision you can see it perfectly in our worlds lit up. we were feeling alone and sorry for ourselves. i realize there were 13 people 36,000 feet above me watching every sad step i took in making sure i made it home ok. the idea of the bigger picture, just because they don't stand here left and right does not mean you'd don't have the same goals. it was the folks upstairs. in this case.
we got back from this and after that, we had to get checked out. our medic with dock lemon, six feet 4, 250 pounds, solid muscle. it's tough to go to him and say that everything hurts. i'm try to tell him what hurts and he is checking out my body gets down to my leg and he goes dude, you have a hole in your leg. what he suppose that's from? he's a big man and he starts squeezing the calf. he starts poking it with his big fingers. he squeezes out a piece of a bolt that bounced off the ground. it looked like a cigarette turn on my leg. he said that the purple heart. we will send you back so take a shower and hang out. i was excited because it sounded great. i hung out for 10 days. i took showers. there were 300 people on this base and it did not have running
water but had elevated water. it was awesome. i ate ice cream in the shower and i just got shot and my mom's not around so ice cream and showers are awesome. about seven days of this, i see all these helicopters coming in. i'm getting antsy in my leg is fine and i decided they probably want me going to check out what's going on. all i saw was they looked like cheerleaders wearing dresses and camouflage vests. i thought i was hallucinating. i had to walk closer. it was the denver bronco cheerleaders. [laughter] i live in colorado so i'm not saying that's the reason but it did not hurt. july 10, the denver bronco cheerleaders went to this random no one cared base in afghanistan with 300 people because it's not that no one cares. everyone cares and they wanted to show support.
they could be anywhere else in the world. they came for us because they cared. it does not take camouflage and guns to show your support. it takes showing you care to show your support and that comes differently from everyone. after that, i was excited to get out to the guys and tell them. they haven't seen a woman in two months. they did not take a shower and i spent 10 days in the shower. i told them my story of the shower in the cheerleaders and ice cream. they were unimpressed. my buddies were disappointe that they were not with me. i saw something in them. they had become better. they were faster and stronger and the way we reacted and the way they reacted when something happened had changed. as fast as life changes and keep up, war is a million times faster. all the bad decisions are no longer around to make bad decisions. the decisions or no more
decisions to be made. if you get into a group and you cannot spot the weakest link in the group, it's probably you. i felt that in my heart and that puts them in danger for us -- for me not being as good as i could be. we had a mud hut and we had razor wire. it slows people down enough to take good shot. we needed more. we did not have the ability to give ourselves more. we had hescos which is a wire cage with a mesh netting and you fill it up with dirt and it stopped bullets and grenades. there was a convoy of 12 vehicles the travel 55 kilometers where vehicles of never been in the history of afghanistan to drop this offer
us. they dropped it off and they realized all we had was bad food and warm water and they turned around and left. they got about one kilometer away in the lead vehicle got hit by an improvised explosive device in the four gentlemen were killed instantly and the gunner was shot off of the top. it was bad business. we went out to go pick up pieces of friends. i had never seen a young dead american soldier. i have seen a lot of dead people at this point. i had never seen anyone that looks like me. i never saw the biggest and best and strongest and least selfish people in my life be reduced to a mass. - mess. it affected me, it hurt. you don't look both ways when you cross the street and you die but you just die sometimes in war and have no one to blame. we cannot accuse people for
things they have not done. we either saw you do it and you have to pay the price or just have to pick up pieces. that is war. we did, we just pick the pieces. the next week, we went after a high-value target. we asked them politely to come out of the house with her hands up and they chose not to. they came out shooting. we eliminated all the enemy that came out of the house. in that time, our lieutenant was shot in the face and killed. now i had seen more death in one week and i had at my entire life previously. i got sad again. that feeling of being 19 and being indestructible turned into this dirt valley as the last place i might ever see a no one cared. it was a leader of mine again that took time out of his life to care for me. barberette was our father figure but our mom was nicholas post.
he cared about us completely. he cared about our families who he would never meet. he's never going to see my family but he cared about our brothers and sisters and girlfriends and what was happening at home and our life affected him because he knew that we were only as good as all of us can be. they are all your family and that involves everything that does not just happen in combat. . he said look, i will make you a promise, the sun will come up tomorrow, i promise you. whether you are i will see it, the sun is coming up tomorrow. all you need to know is that you gave 100% every chance you had in upon your last breath, five minutes or five days or five years, down the road, long as you gave everything you had when it was your chance to give it to you have no regrets and it will never be held against you. i did not find the most positive speech but i understood. that is life. that is how we live our lives
now. hopefully, it does not have to be combat. it takes a lifetime to be your best. we should try every single day. my checklist is to wake up and make the bed and try 100%. we need to do that as soon as possible every single day in a refill today, that's ok because the sun will come up tomorrow and god willing, we will be lucky enough to get a chance to try all over again and be better than the day before. we left afghanistan after that year. i figured with the year of training at your combat and your training, i had less than a year left and i thought they would not send me so i am free to go. i am back in italy having the time of my life and working out at the gym and nine months later, my buddy comes up to me, arthur brown from northern california and he has a stupid smile on his face. he asked if i read the newspaper. i'm ready for it. he said we're not going to iraq
for 12 months. will go to afghanistan. bummer for you guys. we will go for 15 months, not 12. he said the stop movement is in effect. if you are to go somewhere else, you're not only will stay here and we will deploy again together. i had a buddy going to alaska and hawaii and i just heard they are not going anywhere but afghanistan. i felt bad for my buddies. if the military deems you keen essential, they don't have to let you out of your contract. they will call you back but if you're still there, they just won't let you go. son of a gun, right there, the first contract ever signed in my life is with the united states army in the first contract where i fulfilled my side of the contract and then felt cheated from them was the contract i signed with the government. -- with the united states
government. i wasn't going to go after school or hanger with my girlfriend. i was not going back to the states, was going to afghanistan are going now as a leader of men. i had three guys my charge. casey from tallahassee, florida, one from washington. i've got to implement the same way i learned from post and barberette. follow me, i will show you, that's what leaders do. they don't send people to do things that leaders don't do. the leaders better do them than the people they are trying to show. i had to do that. it was one of the most proud time to say that i had to teach a these guys and prepare them for war. then we left 15 months, we were in the northeast corner of afghanistan. we put in 135 american troops there with no running water or electricity.
our job again was to interact with the general populace and built schools and make friends. again, we made no friends and doug no wells and build no schools. we thought people every chance they fought us. it happened to be every single day. we had been there for a couple of months, about five months and we did a mission called rock avalanche. we were going to bring 1000 people into the valley and go places we hadn't been and we got shot at every day and there is almost 200 people in the valley. on a daily basis, about 1/10 of them are shooting at us and we have to walk by them with a smile on her face and hope they don't shoot us in the back. it was all chaos. we were in several gunfights throughout the day in the night. the next day, we saw the enemy go into a house after they got them shooting we dropped bombs on the house. they brought out women and children from the house after it was bombed. the people declared jihad on us.
they said they were at war with us. that's ok because i'm sure they were not being honest with us and now they were telling us the truth that they hate us. they continue to fight and we did. we had maybe 5-8 guys they carried bigger guns. the shots they made count and they do it quietly and professionally. scout team was overrun. the position was taken and their bodies were cleared. in that time, our scout team leader was killed. this man could bench 350 pounds and do a five minute mile. he was smart and cool and we all wanted to be like him and he was killed. if they can take our best, that puts that seed of doubt where you stand. following day, went to get our stuff. back we could not get our buddies back but we got our stuff back.
we took a gun that shot 240 rounds per minute. our entire tactics had to change because we lost our night vision goggles. we had these beacons that blanks of the helicopters and planes can see us so our guys can recognize the leaders and can see where everyone goes in the night. we had to stop that. our job the following day was to set up over walks. we set of 400 meters over the village and a group of 18 went into the village to see what information that you get from the villagers. about 400 meters up the mountain from us, there was another group of 18 and they took the high ground so no one had the high ground on us. we stayed there all day, maybe 14 hours. we got nothing. it was time to walk back to our mud huts and chalk it up to a day. we walked herself into a place we could not walk out. we thrive in chaos.
we don't want to set a pattern or let them know what we will do. we want them to think we are crazy. we walked ourselves into a place we could not walk out of the same way we went in. we walked in a single file line 10-15 meters between people. we walked about 300 meters from where we sat all day. in an instant, my entire world exploded. i had already been in maybe 300 gunfights the year prior. i have never seen a gunfight quite like. this the enemy head is from 15 hiding positions 30 meters away. we had no cover, no concealment. within the first couple of seconds, 16 of 18 people were shot. my first responsibility was to my men, and i looked at two of them i dropped down to the ground and casey had that gun
that shoots 1000 rounds per minute and he never once got down. he started shooting. i promise you that did not benefit him. he had three feet of flame coming out of his gun. he had nothing to get behind but as long as they put their heads down, their bullets are not on us. casey did that and clary was right next to them lobbing grenades. because we train them, we had never been in this position before but we were prepared if this were to happen. i cannot tell people what to do because they were already doing them. i had to do the next thing on the checklist. i looked toward my leader and as i look at him, his head snapped in his body dropped to the ground. i was overcome with every emotion you can imagine. that was that i ran to him to
grab his body so he did not get shot at them more and as i ran toward his body, i got shot in the chest but the plate stopped it. the rocket launcher over my shoulder got shot. now i cannot shoot it or set it down. there is a whole inside of the rocket launcher so i could not shoot it. i got togalardo and i was hit from the north. the enemy was shooting from the west. there were two more guys from the north. i knew i got hit from the north and i knew were came from but there was nothing i could do. my mind was on getting gallardo back and as i dragged him back, he came to. the bullet ricocheted off his helmet and did not go through when he was out the whole time i dragged him and the second he came to, the first words out of his mouth, were throw grenades. the first words out of my mouth when i took a ricochet to the calf is i got shot.
that's the difference. leaders do not care about himself. we were on his mind conscious or unconscious the whole time. i had grenades so i started throwing grenades. we had to throw the grenades behind the enemy. we cannot just throw it on top of them. as i threw the grenades, kept running, there is no reason to stop. i had three and i threw my last. one guy was shot twice in the chest and twice in the leg. it's important we get that a gun going. i went over to pick up the gun next to the wounded and before you do that, gallardo had already popped up and chased after me and he was there. because of training, i knew everything was ok because he was there. he gave us the skills of be the best he could and he's the one that knows everything. now that he is there, check that box because that's taking care of. i continued to run to the north.
i got to where there is one more guy and i could not find him. two months before, brennan should have been out of the army and he got shot in his left leg in the same spot i got but his was clean through. they could not figure out who was shooting at us, we could not at the medevac helicopter to pick him up. so he had a liaison patrol and walked to a safe distance of the helicopter could pick him up after being shot in the leg. i said i hope you meet cheerleaders and have ice cream and take tons of showers. don't worry about us, we will be fine and he left. two days later after he left the valley, this black hawk helicopter comes in and we are excited. whatever that helicopter had, we didn't have and it would be better than what we did have so it would be awesome. the helicopter landed in only
one thing came off, the dude with a big pack and he walked with a limp. i knew was brennan. i was so disappointed. i said what's the deal? all he said to me was the showers were making them lazy and the ice cream was making them fat. that made me feel pretty darn small hanging out for 10 days with a ricochet in my legs. i can't take that back so i have to be within the rest of the time. our standard operating procedure book in a near ambush situation, you charge you shoot them and they shoot you. 75% casualty rate is acceptable. that stings when you are reading it and it's worse when all those guys have first, middle, last names and families is not just the name of your friend. brennan charge the ambush my because that's what had to be done.
i did not, i went after him not to be left behind. i got about 30 meters. the enemy ambush line was to my left and i was in this no man's land. i was not shooting so i was able to move quickly and quietly through the darkness. they used tracers and they were the target and i was not. i got to a flat part of the ridge and there is no bushes or anything on it and i could see two people, i had my night vision goggles up. i could see two people carry one person away. i did not understand. they cap running after him. as i got closer, i realized what i was seeing. i was seeing to enemies carrying way my best friend. i did exactly what i signed up to do in the basement of lindale mall. i destroyed the enemies of the united states in close combat. that's what i signed up for and
that's exactly what i did. i destroyed the enemy and grabbed my that he and took off running back in the direction i came. at that point, the enemy ambush line started to break down and they retreated down the backside of the mountain. we had two apache attack helicopters above it because of the close proximity and we could not use their beacons to identify ourselves to them, they could not shoot. we would all get shoif they started shooting. we started retreating down the backside of the mountain and they created the space we needed and they went to work on them. as far as i know, no enemy survived the ambush line. i was working on brennan and called from medic three times in my entire life and i truly needed medical assistance. 2 times, i have watched medics come through bullets and explosives. it's true how they come to through to save us pretty i needed one this night but no medic was coming. i did not know that our medic was shot and killed in first
couple of seconds of the ambush. as i was working on brennan who was shot seven times missing a piece of his jaw that he was still alive and talking. all of a sudden, a man named brothers who volunteered for this n missio who was a nurse, he was in the group above us 400 meters up the mountain. that means the second they watch the world exploded in us, they ran into harm's way no because it in a fit of them but because they knew they could assist us and it would make us better. he started giving brennan a tracheotomy on the side of the mountain. as he was doing this, we don't carry body bags. it's bad to carry your own casket with you. we carry ponchos they keep you out of the rain. you can use it to carry people. we were working on brennan and a poncho with the body showed up. and then another. and then another.
there were 18 of us on the mountain i see four of them with bodies in them in my that he brennan is dying a front of me. we started to get the medevac and we took their night vision goggles and 16 out of 18 people were shot and a bullet resistance place. they are not bullet proof. some of these guys that were not shot, we were taking her place to run up on the helicopter and get them out of there. we had about a 2.5 hour walk back to the mud hut and as we started walking back, we had had 350 rounds and rocket launchers and grenades and five days later, i had three different guns on me none of which were my own and no rocket launcher and probably 10 grenades and i had extra plates. i could feel the weight, the loss, the burden in which these men carried in it was not because they were not having fun. wasn't because they were tired
and want to go home. it wasn't because they didn't want to do it anymore, it was because they used every single tomorrow they would have so we can live today and it was now our job to do it they were going to do. we just didn't have them in our lives anymore. we walked back and after something like this, we have to learn what caused this. how could we have done it better? what scenario led to this? we write these sworn statements and we call them after action reviews. on the following day, my company commander came up to me and said i want to let you know that i put in gallardo for the silver star. that's the third-highest medal in the entire military. i looked at him and i said i am proud of you. i think he is the man and we would not be where we are now his quick thinking and actions and everything you put on the line for us. he said i want you to know that i put you in for the congressional medal of honor.
i have never heard such rude words to me before or since. words don't bother me. i'm an easy going guy. those words cut to my core. it was the saddest, meanest thing i ever heard anyone say. i just lost to my friends that. day sergeant brennan died in surgery and mendoza died on the mountain and the other four were going to live but were not going to come back to us. they wanted to put a metal on my chest? i told my company commander, very choice were you should never say to your boss's boss. it was guy talk. that was july 27, 2007 and we did not leave that valley until july 29, 2008. and we left. we went back to italy. that was five years on a four-year contract and a new i was done with the military because they could not keep me
anymore. i got back to italy and i was approached again not by a boss but by a leader. he came to me and he told me that this happens. the army will take care of you. i'm a sucker for a good time. i get into trouble sometimes. as long as i can stay in italy and stay with these people that i truly believe in making the world a better place, i would be happy to stay in the army. i told him that so i got a stay. something strange happened, they gave me a cell phone and a desk in a computer in the give me 43 wives and 63 children were my new responsibility. i had their families. all those going to war. they sent 134 young men back into combat in afghanistan. they left one and that was me. i don't do things i am not good at. you will not see me enter a spelling bee. i am awful.
i thought i was a good warrior and i thought i have proven myself in combat. i thought i proved exactly what they wanted and they left me and put me with the women and the children. it hurt my feelings. nine months of doing this, my problems don't happen at 11:00 in the morning. mine happen at 11:00 at night. i cannot see it too much longer. on september 9, 2010, my desk phone rang. i thought, no big deal. someked it up and it was kernel at the pentagon. he wanted me to verify who i was with my social security number. sure. he told me that at 1705 that this desk phone would ring again tomorrow but don't tell anyone about the conversation and don't let anyone else pick up the phone. i said roger, sir, ok.
i got married to my wife in the last year and i went home and i told my wife that i think tomorrow i will get arrested at work. can you come with me to work? [laughter] i don't know what excuse to make because i don't think i did anything wrong. the kernel at the pentagon does not call staff sergeants in italy. i dated my wife for five years and she never went to work with me. now i multitask and talk on the phone and i didn't want her to know that i was that productive, otherwise she would expect more. on that day, she came in. at 1705, the phone rang and i picked it up and was kernel at the pentagon again. i verify my so security number on the phone clicked and it was the secretary of the white house something. what a silly name to call yourself.
it's going to confuse people. i can only think of one white house and they are not calling me. the phone clicked and it was the president of the united states. i wish i could tell you some classy conversation we had. i don't remember because my heart was pounding pretty hard and i was super excited i was not going to jail. i was squeezing my wife's hand and there was a pause, i don't know if there was a question but what do you say to the president of the united states? i've never met the president of a chess club, much less the free world. i gave him a roger, mr. president. he went on talking. he said i would be the first congressional medal of honor recipient since vietnam. he said don't tell anyone about the conversation, we will find you and let you know when you can talk about it. the phone call is over and i set the phone down. the job that i had with wives
43 and safety for children was only 135 guys were the families. there were four other guys are did my same job and we share the same office. when i looked up, all four of them were staring at me and about 55 guys preparing to go to afghanistan were looking at me what goes a silly goose. my buddy said, mr. president, are you for real. everyone is in afghanistan without access to a telephone. i think that was probably 15 seconds after the resident told me not to tell anyone. i only told 59 people. i'm usually better at keeping secrets. but i did say that. you saw quite a few gentlemen stand up at the white house and those are my guys that i was on the mountainside with that night. that is the environment i grew up in. america is the environment i grew up in. you were the people in track -- to interact with me that create the environment i grew up with and it's hard for me to take responsibility because i'm
a product of this environment, the product of the great people behind me. they give me the guidance to continue to do what we do to make the world a better place every single day. i want to say that i stand here humbled, one of many, this metal is not mine. they put it around my neck but this metal is not sal giunto's. it is ours. it represents sacrifice and service and it's not about what happened in combat. not about just what happened yesterday in combat. there are so many great deeds that happen across america every single day. that is what this metal represents. that does not represent the ones that wear it, it represents those who deserve it and don't have the chance to wear it, the unsung heroes. when everyone was standing up, the military service does not all look alike or fit together but that's what makes america great. in support of the military where people do, every single person in this room was standing or
trying to stand or about to stand. that is one of the most impressive things. i have been to 55 countries in the world. this is probably the only one that answer would've gone over like that it would not just happen here. it would happen across the united states because that's what we are. we are the american people, the difference makers, we have to go above and beyond every single day and it we don't do our best, it will soon not be the greatest country in the world and that's why it's worth fighting. we love it so it's not because we want to change it or hate it. my time is short but it's an honor to be around all of you. i will stick around after this have lunch and hang out. i'm a friendly guy and i am not anything great. i'm a simple product of my environment and being an average american is one of the best things we could all be. thank you for your time. thanks for listening. i've been talking for like my whole life. people started to listen about five years ago so this is special, i appreciate it and thank you for your support and god bless america.
[applause] >> i'd like to talk to you a little bit later. nice meeting you. >> thank you very much, home run. [applause] >> we see people from all over the world in laredo. here, of the 17,000 apprehensions we've had in the first six months of this year are mexican nationals, most are coming from mexico but we also see a number of people, about 30% are from south america. we see folks from water mollo --
from guatemala, as far away as ecuador and china and other areas of the world. is not one particular global area but the majority you see here in laredo are from mexico. they are contracting smuggling organizations to finance their trips to the united states. they are paying anywhere from $1500 to $2000 depending on how far they are coming, what types , andchniques they're using how long that trip is going to take. depending on where they are coming from that playback -- they a very significant price. smugglede going to be are transported into the interior of the united states you obviously will pay a little more than if you just going to be dropped off.
the majority of people doing the smuggling are criminals, folks who have dedicated their lives to smuggling and handling narcotics. they think are just trying to do a humanitarian effort in trying to transport them or help them get to the united states, it's actually part of a criminal enterprise. quota ors to charge a collect that price that alien is willing to pay in order to get into the united states, and then find themselves being exploited at every level of that transaction. whether it's at the actual transportation level, we see young ladies that are being raped, folks being robbed, people being kidnapped and exploited for more money once they put their lives in their hands.
we see these folks that are -- those beingo stopped by the police or the border patrol, we see folks being left in the desert because they can't walk anymore. the smugglers don't want to get caught so they just abandon them in the desert. in the first six months alone we've seen over 30 deaths so far. differenta number of schemes. we see passenger vehicles, we seen concealment in commercial , they tried to make them look like they belong to an industry that really isn't an industry. some of the commercial trucks that you see in the background are being exploited as well in order to battle to introduce
narcotics and people into the united states. with the heat passing the 100 degree market laredo soon and into the summer, when you get a load of 25 or 30 people that are being hidden in the back of a tractor-trailer with no air conditioning and no way to get out of those traders, it becomes extremely dangerous for us and it's important for us to be able to identify that smuggling operation before we have a tragic event. they are inspected by border protection and field operations that they are entering the united states illegally. once they do that they go to a warehouse and it can be broken down into four or five different trucks at this particular warehouse. they go to distribution points throughout the country. , thes how the economy work
products they're introducing into the country from mexico to different areas of the country in the united states. there are plenty of opportunities once they make entry into the united states for that commodity on that truck to in smuggling. there are plenty of opportunities for narcotics we introduced into that commercial environment. ableck points have to be to screen that traffic once again before leaving the actual in two major highways and i was of the united states. x how are you going about screening here? what does a commercial truck go through? >> they are being screened by border can -- border patrol agents.
the commodities they are actually transporting, and we also have an opportunity to expose them to our k-9 units, that are designed not to -- not to just spot hidden narcotics but people who may be hidden in the vehicles. vehicle can be subject to a , to bery inspection area able to look at that truck commodity and look at that trailer and the frame of the truck to see if there's any anomalies. we have arrested over 17,000 people and that's just from october 1 through march 31. we talk about the fact that most of these folks are paying anywhere from 1500 to $15,000, that kind of ads up and gives you a better context of how much
money there is to be made by these organizations. >> this week, washington journal will be live from the border at laredo, texas. brandon darby will talk about illegal immigration in the area. a -- local immigration vielma discusses immigration. washington journal is light 00 ammorning at seven: eastern on c-span. it is commencement time for colleges and universities around the country. for the next several hours, we will show you some of the people who offered words of advice and encouragement to the graduating class of 2016. the lineup includes lawmakers, governors, and business leaders. we will hear from president
obama. we begin with members of congress, hearing first from paul ryan and then senators barbara boxer and jeff sessions. it's month-to-month paul ryan gave a commencement speech in his home state of wisconsin at carthage college. it was his second time delivering the commencement address. he spoke previously in 2006. [applause] rep. ryan: thank you. dr. ryan. it sounds like a tom clancy novel. i forgot about that.