Colorado county clerks, staffs hear moving tribute by a true hero

Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore Giunta signs books for attendees at the Colorado County Clerks Association conference Tuesday,
Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore Giunta signs books for attendees at the Colorado County Clerks Association conference Tuesday,

The first living recipient of the Medal of Honor in almost four decades held county clerks and their staffs “spellbound” Tuesday when he talked to them about his journey as a “sandwich artist” working at a Subway in Iowa to a mountainside in Afghanistan to a ceremony at the White House.

Former Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta touted the men who were with him that fateful day in 2007 that claimed the lives of two men, including a close friend.

“We Americans do not go to war to fight because we … hate our enemies. We go to war and we fight because we love our homes, we love this country so much it’s worth leaving everything and preserving what we have here,” he said.

His speech — filled with honor, humility and humor — was a high point of the Colorado County Clerks Association conference, which began Monday and ended today.

“I was absolutely spellbound,” said Tina Fry, Routt County’s chief deputy clerk.

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Medal of Honor recipient inspires at Healing Our Heroes event

Congressman Mike Coffman, U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser and Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry at the Healing our Heroes gala Friday in Denver. Petry was the keynote speaker.
Congressman Mike Coffman, U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser and Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry at the Healing our Heroes gala Friday in Denver. Petry was the keynote speaker.

For the second time in my life, I’ve shaken the hand of a Medal of Honor recipient.

The first time was in the early 1980s when I worked for The Gallup Independent in Gallup, N.M., and got to know Heroshi Miyamura. The Gallup native, known as “Hershey,” in 1951 in Korea killed more than 50 enemy soldiers, including hand-to-hand fighting with a bayonet, while ordering his men to fall back.

Hershey Miyamura.
Hershey Miyamura.

The next time was at the Healing our Heroes luncheon Friday in Denver when I met former Army Ranger Leroy Petry, who also is a New Mexico native. I didn’t realize until I went to shake his hand that he lost his right one while throwing a live grenade away from his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008.

Petry served as the keynote speaker for the Healing our Heroes gala, which raised money to help injured veterans receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“I thank God every morning that I’m here,” Petry said. “So many paid the ultimate price or suffered horrific injuries.”

Read moreMedal of Honor recipient inspires at Healing Our Heroes event