Sal Giunta Scholarship of Honor
    in memory of Sgt Brennan and Spc Mendoza

It had been over 40 years since a living Medal of Honor recipient was awarded our nation’s highest military honor. SSG Sal Giunta was the first living person to receive the United States Armed Froces' highest decoration for valor for actions that occurred after the Vietnam War.

The Sal Giunta Scholarship of Honor is awarded annually at his alma mater, John F. Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The scholarship honors the soldiers he tried to save, SGT Josh Brennan and SPC Hugo Mendoza. It will continue Sal’s legacy and allow SGT Brennan and SPC Mendoza's spirit to live on.

*Photo by Nick DelCalzo

Staff Sgt. Giunta is a genuine American hero. The humble warrior is committed to saluting the two fallen warriors who died that day. Giunta will remember that day, not because of his actions that earned him the Medal of Honor, but he'll remember it as the day he lost two friends.

Sgt Joshua Brennan was born May 30, 1985 in El Paso, Texas to Janice Gates, Ontario, Oregon and Michael Brennan of McFarland, Wis. Joshua attended high school in Ontario, graduating in 2003. He spent his summers living with his father in McFarland, Wis.

Soon after graduation he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a paratrooper with the renowned 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade. This was his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. Joshua was awarded the Bronze Star for valor during his first tour of duty. He also received a Purple Heart after being shot in the leg in August 2007.

SSG Giunta was tight with Brennan; they trained together and traveled around Italy, where they were based... "He was athletic, smart, funny, always someone you could count on."

Spc. Hugo Mendoza was an avid churchgoer who dreamed of becoming a firefighter, He graduated from Trevor Browne High School in 1997 and enlisted as an Army Medic in 2005. With a big smile and instinctive tendency toward helping those in need, Spc. Mendoza was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Vicenza, Italy. After leaving Glendale, Arizona, to deploy to Europe and then to the Middle East with his unit, he would make sure to call his mom in Detroit whenever he could.

SSG Giunta comments, "He truly cared about other people more than he did about himself." And, as a bonus: "He knew the best jokes."




Shalina Gurung is studying Criminal Justice at Kirkland College

2018- Giunta Erica Novak.jpg


Ericka Novak is studying Education and Political sciences at the University of Iowa



Hannah Borsay is studying Criminal Justice at Kirwood Community College










Kathie Pham is studying Social work at the University of Iowa.



Daheun Kim is pursuing a career in Humanities at the University of Northern Iowa. She is pictured here with Sal Giunta on awards night at JFK High School.



Shelby Chostner studied Nursing at St. Ambrose University.  She is pictured here with Sal on Awards night.



Brandon Skaggs attended Kirkwood Community College to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice with his ultimate goal to have a career in law enforcement.



Abi Gray attended Iowa State and has enlisted in the United States Air Force with plans to study Areospace Engineering

She is pictured here with Sal Giunta after the first annual scholarship presentation.



Endowment drive underway 

2 Star donors

Robert and Donna Kidder

1 Star Donors

Marybeth Schmidt