Ambushed in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta stepped into a "wall of bullets" and chased down two Taliban fighters who were carrying his mortally wounded friend away.
Three years after that act of battlefield bravery, Giunta on Tuesday became the first living service member from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to receive the nation's top military award, the Medal of Honor.
Far from the perilous ridge where his unit was attacked on a moonlit night in October 2007, Giunta stood in the glittering East Room, in the company of military brass, past Medal of Honor winners, his surviving comrades and families as President Barack Obama hung the blue ribbon cradling the medal around Giunta's neck.
"I'm going to go off script here and just say, 'I really like this guy," Obama said, calling him "a soldier as humble as he is heroic.
"When you meet Sal and you meet his family, you are just absolutely convinced that this is what America is all about, and it just makes you proud."