As a nation we have been blessed with many soldiers whose heroism and selfless spirits have saved the lives of countless others and, of course, served to defend those of us here in the States time and again. And as the War on Terror has continued and those acts of heroism have continued, we as a nation have watched as some of those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been honored for their actions by being decorated with the Navy Cross, Medal of Honor, and others. It’s important to remember that not every hero is recognized, and not every selfless act is honored; there are far more heroes out there than many realize. And, sadly, there are those heroes who did not survive to participate in their own ceremonies, but have, instead, received them posthumously. Today we honor one such hero: SFC Jared Monti.
Monti was born in 1975 in Abington, Massachusetts; his father Paul was a teacher and his mother Janet was able to stay at home with him as he grew. He had one sister, Nicole, and one brother, Timothy. Growing up in Massachusetts may sound like the perfect location for a quiet childhood, but by all accounts Jared Monti was just as hard-charging and tough as a child as he was as a man. His mother told the story of four-year-old Jared simply vanishing from their backyard one day with the frantic search cut short when she discovered him, hanging from the hood of his sweatshirt, on the opposite side of the fence. One can only imagine where he would have gone had his escape attempt not been thwarted by the hoodie. His childhood consisted of climbing not just fences but trees and generally challenging himself, but he survived it all, graduating from high school in 1994 – and he’d already enlisted.
He enlisted in the National Guard in March of 1993 under the delayed entry program because he already knew what he wanted to do when he graduated: serve his country, and fight. Basic training took place between his junior and senior years at high school at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Once he got that apparently pesky detail of high school graduation out of the way, he completed his military training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After AIT he was awarded MOS 13F, fire support specialist. His first deployment was to Kosovo, where he served as a staff sergeant with the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. During that first deployment he sustained fairly serious injuries while skydiving, and as a result, the Army offered him a medical discharge. He’d have none of it, though; Monti turned down the discharge and re-upped. After Kosovo he did his first tour in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004, and in no time at all he as being deployed yet again.
“The enemy attacks the innocent and the institutions that seek to improve the lives of the Afghan people. Such terrorist groups as al Qaeda and the Taliban have committed atrocities, and sought to intimidate, oppress and control the people.” U.S. Army Major General Benjamin Freakley at the ceremony where Monti’s unit and the others assumed authority from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan
In February of 2006, Monti was deployed for a third time, this time to Afghanistan as part of Task Force Spartan. That task force was made up of two infantry battalions, a field artillery battalion, a cavalry squadron, multiple battalions of the brigade combat team, as well as several other commands and nine provincial reconstruction teams. Major General Benjamin Freakley stated at the beginning of Monti’s deployment that he felt it was an important time in Afghanistan’s history, and his men would be there to facilitate the necessary changes. It was, indeed, an important time, and a costly one.
It’s important to note that Monti was already a decorated soldier at this point in time. Prior to the events of June 2006, Jared Monti had already received the following: the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal with four oak-leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with three oak-leaf clusters, Good Conduct Medal 3rd Award, National Defense Service Medal (2), Korean Defense Service Medal (2), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (2), Kosovo Campaign Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with numeral two, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral three, NATO Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal, Global War of Terrorism Service Medal, Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge and the Air Assault Badge. Jared Monti wasn’t just a good soldier; he was a great one, and he was about to show his true nature with the most selfless act possible: risking his own life to save another.
On June 18, 2006, the men were sent out to set up over-watch for an op that was to take place in a valley 2,600 feet below them. There were three groups heading out that day: members of C Troop led by SGT Patrick Lybert, snipers led by SSGT Chris Cunningham, and the artillery team, which was being led by Jared Monti. Monti’s team was made up of 16 soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. It took three days for the soldiers to make the treacherous climb up an unnavigated mountain; a climb that took them right into the heart of enemy territory. They ended up being delayed, though, and needed more food and water in order to go on. A lone helicopter was called in with supplies, a helicopter originally meant to arrive simultaneously with the helicopters for the much larger operation they were to provide over-watch for. It is believed the appearance of that single helicopter, necessary though it was, was what gave the soldiers’ location away to the waiting enemies.
Before nightfall the soldiers split into two groups, taking positions along the ridgeline. The larger group took positions in the tree line to the north while the others positioned themselves behind large rocks and sparse trees to the south. Monti and SSGT Cunningham were among those positioned to the south.
Immediately prior to dusk, all hell broke loose. The evening sky lit up with incoming RPGs and gunfire from a spot about 50 yards above the soldiers to the north. A young PFC by the name of Derek James vividly remembers the moment they began to take fire, because one of the first RPGs tore a piece of his left arm off. Almost before he could react to the arm wound, he took a bullet to his back. He later said “I remember thinking, ‘Shit, I am going to die. We are all going to die.’” It became immediately clear to James that he needed to reach the southern position if he wanted to survive the attack. He made it to a medic who rushed to treat his wounds, hoping to keep him stable until help could arrive. James ended up being the only wounded soldier to make it out alive.
The soldiers were being assaulted by approximately 60 insurgents, and the death toll began almost instantaneously. Monti didn’t hesitate to call in close air support; his call sign was Chaos 35, and he was calling for salvation from above. It wasn’t going to get there in time.
“We were taking so much fire we couldn’t make out where the mortars landed. It was coming in so close that … you could hear it right over your head, just like whizzing through. They were so close at one point you could hear their voices.” PFC Derek James
One soldier present that day recalls hearing the insurgents chanting in Arabic as they moved in. Another remembers only the susurrus of gunfire and whine of RPGs. Most of the soldiers who had been positioned to the north were able to move to the southern position, but not all made it. When Spec. Brian Bradbury fell to enemy fire, severely wounded but not yet dead, the soldiers to the south were determined to save him.
The soldiers tried to keep Bradbury talking, calling out to him in an attempt to stop him from passing out and succumbing to his injuries. Cunningham said he would go after Bradbury, who was lying in the death zone between the insurgents and the soldiers to the south. But Monti would hear nothing of it: “That’s my guy,” he said, “I’m going to get him.” And he did.
“You can tell Bradbury is slowly slipping away. We are doing everything we can to keep him talking.” Renken
Monti’s first attempt to reach Bradbury was painfully close at just three feet away from the wounded soldier before incoming fire forced him back. But he would not give up. He would not leave a wounded soldier alone to die when he was right there and able to do something about it. And so he moved out for a second time, while the others provided cover fire. And for a second time the gunfire and RPGs pouring in gave him no choice but to retreat. But he would not be dissuaded; no amount of gunfire, no risk to his own well-being, was going to stop him. SSGT Jared Monti moved to save his wounded brother for a third time.
It was on that third attempt Monti was cut down in a thick hail of bullets. The men who were there that day recall Monti’s chilling screams with horror; they had never before heard such a sound from a human being. He was not immediately killed, however, he was able to turn, and so he began to crawl back to his men. Cunningham later said Monti had made his peace with God, and that his final words were a request that Cunningham tell Monti’s parents he loved them. And then, Jared Monti was gone, another American Hero lost in an act of stunning, selfless bravery.
Air support arrived just moments after Monti was killed, obliterating 22 of the insurgents and scattering the rest. When the gunfire finally subsided, a helicopter came to the aid of the surviving men. A flight medic dropped down, and the men remember his words to this day, words that would become some of his last: “Hey, don’t worry. I’m gonna get you guys out of here.”
The medic was SSGT Heathe Craig, and he took Derek James first, placing him in the hovering helicopter before returning with more straps for Bradbury. It was obvious Bradbury was too badly wounded to hold onto Craig, making it necessary for the medic to strap himself to the injured soldier. They didn’t get far. As the helicopter lifted the pair into the night sky, a horrific tragedy struck; the steel cable snapped, and both men fell to their deaths. The relief the survivors had felt just moments earlier evaporated in a cloud of fury and anguish.
The soldiers spent the night waiting for a second attack, jumping into action at the tiniest noise. When morning finally came, they loaded their dead into a waiting helicopter’s basket and watched it leave. There was no room for the living; the remaining soldiers would have to hike out.
Jared Monti was remembered as many things, all of them rich and amazing. On one occasion he’d made his roommate angry by giving away their brand new furniture – he’d given it away because a fellow soldier’s children were sitting on the floor, having no furniture of their own. He didn’t go home for the holidays, not because he didn’t want to but because he had a tendency to give his leave to soldiers with families waiting back home. Monti was remembered exactly as he died: selfless and generous, thinking only of others.
It was his father’s memory of him that burned brightest.
One day years after Jared Monti’s death, Paul Monti was speaking on the air of a radio station when he mentioned that he drove his late son’s truck to remember him. “I love driving it because it reminds me of him, though I don’t need the truck to remind me of him. I think about him every hour of every day,” Paul said on the air that day. Unknown to Paul, songwriter Connie Harrington heard him on the radio that day, and as she drove down the road she was frantically taking notes. Paul mentioned that he hadn’t cleaned the truck since his son’s death and that he didn’t care about its bad mileage, and every word struck a chord for Connie Harrington. This memory needed to be memorialized, and she was just the writer to do it.
If you’ve ever listened to Lee Brice sing “I Drive Your Truck” you’ve heard the song that was written about Paul Monti and his courageous son Jared.
“This thing burns gas like crazy but that’s all right. People got their ways of coping, oh and I got mine; I drive your truck, I roll every window down and I burn up every back road in this town. I find a field and tear it up till all the pain’s a cloud of dust. Yeah, sometimes…I drive your truck.” From “I Drive Your Truck”
Jared Monti was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. And as I write this, Paul Monti continues to drive his son’s truck, and the heart-wrenching words of a country song paint a vivid picture of a private pain. Jared Monti refused to give up, even in the face of imminent death. He is an American Hero who made the ultimate sacrifice, and he will always be remembered.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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