By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 18, 2009 - The father of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor, remembered his son today as a person defined by selflessness. Monti, then a staff sergeant, was killed June 21, 2006, after making several attempts to rescue a fellow soldier wounded while battling Taliban insurgents in Gowardesh, Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan.
"I think Jared received more in his life than anybody I can think of. But he never got anything for himself, because no matter what we sent him, he gave it away," Paul Monti said, referring to the care packages his son received in Afghanistan, the contents of which he routinely doled out to Afghan kids.
"In the end," the soldier's father continued, "he gave his life for someone else."
Monti risked his life on a rocky ridge in Afghanistan, where his 16-man patrol found itself under attack by 50 Taliban insurgents. He quickly called in artillery support when he noticed that one of his soldiers was wounded and in danger. He twice braved massive enemy rifle and rocket fire in attempts to reach his wounded comrade lying on the ground some 20 yards away.
Forced to turn back both times and taking shelter behind a rock, Monti contemplated his next move. He decided to give it another try, but he was killed in that final attempt.
Those fateful decisions earned him a posthumous promotion to sergeant first class and the Medal of Honor that President Barack Obama presented to the heroic soldier's family at a White House ceremony yesterday.
"Faced with overwhelming enemy fire, Jared could have stayed where he was behind that rock," Obama said during the ceremony. But, he said, "that was not the kind of soldier Jared Monti was."
Friends, family and fellow soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., were on hand today as Defense Department and military leaders once again honored Monti and added his name to the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
Army Secretary Pete Geren recounted tales about Monti's childhood in Raynham, Mass., where the he is remembered for the selflessness and humility he displayed even as a young man.
"From his earliest days, Jared had a heart for the needy and less fortunate," Geren said. "At age 17, he learned of a family in Raynham who didn't have a Christmas tree. So he chopped one of the trees down in his own front yard and gave it to that family."
Later, as a soldier in Afghanistan, he distributed the gifts he received from back home to the Afghan children he met. This show of generosity earned him popularity among the Afghan youth. "The Afghan kids knew Jared by name," Geren said. "'Mr. Monti' they called him – and they would rush up to him whenever came by."
Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said that in losing Jared, the Monti family had endured a loss few will ever know.
"Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti: we salute him, we honor him, and we will always remember him," he said.
Monti's name will appear alongside the 3,447 other troops to receive the Medal of Honor of since Congress established the highest military decoration in 1862.