President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who rescued two members of his squad in October 2007 while fighting in the war in Afghanistan, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Fresh from receiving the nation's highest military award for valor at the White House on Tuesday, the U.S. Army is sending Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta on a national victory lap, and NBC Chicago has learned first that Chicago will be one of his first stops.
"Yes he is coming to Chicago. The Pentagon has approved the tour," confirmed Brandi Schiff, a spokeswoman with the Army's Department of Public Affairs. "What we're hoping is that Chicago embraces him as a local soldier and a Midwest hero."
Schiff said Giunta, a native of Hiawatha, Iowa, picked Chicago because, "He's a huge Bears fan."
She said that as part of Giunta's four-day visit between Dec. 12-15, Giunta will be honored at Soldier Field during the third quarter of the Bears game against the New England Patriots.
It will be Giunta's first-ever Bears game, said Schiff.
NBC Chicago has learned other details about Giunta's Chicago itinerary, which will come on the heels of a New York City tour.
He will visit a suburban veteran's hospital and the Hoffman Estates headquarters of department store chain Sears on Dec. 12. On Dec. 15, he will be honored during the Chicago Blackhawks home game against the Colorado Avalanche. His visit here will also include a "Chicago Food Tour."
"I can't sleep," said Joe Cantafio, a local USO entertainer who got the Pentagon's green light to be Giunta's tour guide for part of the trip.
"I"ve read his story about four times. My mom can't wait to meet him," said Cantafio.
Cantafio shared his excitement over a cup of coffee Tuesday night with an Army helicopter pilot who served during the Vietnam War. Ret. Chief Warrant Officer Jim Thompson said Giunta deserves whatever Chicago gives him.
"He stepped up. He went above and beyond the call of duty," said Thompson.