President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta Tuesday for his actions on the battlefield when his squad was ambushed by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley in October 2007.
The ceremony in the East Room of the White House marked the first time in nearly 40 years that the military's highest honor was bestowed on a living soldier.
"You may believe that you don't deserve this honor but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it," Obama told Giunta during the ceremony as his comrades from that October 2007 night were recognized with applause from the audience.
Giunta, the first living serviceman from the Iraq or Afghan wars to receive the Medal of Honor, has said his actions on the battlefield that ultimately saved the body of his close friend from falling in to Taliban hands were not out of the ordinary.
"In this job I'm only mediocre," he told reporters in September after learning he had been selected to receive the honor. "I'm average."
During the ambush, two soldiers were separated from the rest during the attack -- among them, Sgt. Joshua Brennan, one of Giunta's best friends.
Giunta and his comrades fought back against the enemy position with grenades as they tried to reconnect with the separated soldiers, and when Giunta saw two of the insurgents dragging a wounded Brennan down a hill, he braved enemy fire and ran after them.
Giunta shot at the Taliban fighters, killing one. He was able to reach Brennan and provide medical care. Though Brennan later died, Guinta saved his body and equipment from falling into enemy hands.
When asked in September if he considered himself a hero, Giunta said he believed that everyone serving in the military who goes into the unknown deserved the title.
"As long as you include everyone with me," he said.