Update: President Awards Medal of Honor to Fallen Soldier’s Family

  President Barack Obama posthumously awards the Medal of Honor for Army Sgt. 1st. Class Jared C. Monti of Raynham, Mass., to his parents Paul and Janet Monti, Sept. 17, 2009,in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. U.S. Army photo by D. Myles Cullen

President Barack Obama posthumously awards the Medal of Honor for Army Sgt. 1st. Class Jared C. Monti of Raynham, Mass., to his parents Paul and Janet Monti, Sept. 17, 2009,in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. U.S. Army photo by D. Myles Cullen

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2009 – President Barack Obama today bestowed the Medal of Honor posthumously to the family of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti during a White House ceremony.

“The actions we honor today were not a passing moment of courage; they were a culmination of a life of character and commitment,” Obama said of Monti’s heroism in Afghanistan.

Then-Staff Sergeant Monti was killed June 21, 2006, after making several attempts to rescue a fellow soldier who had been wounded during a battle with Taliban insurgents, and ultimately died, in Gowardesh, Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan.

Monti was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class. His name is slated to be enrolled among other Medal of Honor recipients at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes following a ceremony in the Pentagon auditorium tomorrow.

Obama presented the award to Monti’s parents, Paul and Janet Monti, during a ceremony in the White House’s East Room. The ceremony was attended by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; newly confirmed Army Secretary John McHugh; and other senior officials.

Monti, a native of Raynham, Mass., was 30 years old at the time of his death. He was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Drum, N.Y. He enlisted in the Army in March 1993 and trained as a forward observer for artillery.

The fallen soldier, Obama said, was a kindhearted, persistent young man who had befriended those in need at home and also helped others during his overseas military duty.

Monti “was the soldier in Afghanistan who received care packages, including fresh clothes,” Obama said, “and gave them away to Afghan children who needed them more.”

The fallen soldier had been rejected several times for a slot on his high school basketball team, Obama said. But, he added, Monti persisted and ended up on the varsity basketball squad.

Monti rose to noncommissioned officer rank in the Army, Obama said, where he was engaged in “caring for his soldiers and teaching his troops.”

Deeply held values and love for his fellow soldiers, Obama said, caused Monti to risk his life on a rocky ridge in Afghanistan, where Monti’s 16-man patrol was attacked by 50 Taliban insurgents.

Monti quickly called in artillery support, Obama said. And then, he said, the young NCO did something beyond military training when he saw that one of his soldiers was wounded and in danger.

“Jared Monti did something no amount of training can instill,” Obama said. “His patrol leader said he’d go, but Jared said: ‘No. He is my soldier; I am going to get him.'”

Monti twice braved massive enemy rifle and rocket fire in attempts to reach his wounded comrade who was lying on the ground some 20 yards away, Obama said. Forced to turn back and taking shelter behind a rock, Monti contemplated his next move. He decided to give it another try.

“Faced with overwhelming enemy fire, Jared could have stayed where he was behind that rock,” Obama observed. But, he said: “That was not the kind of soldier Jared Monti was.”

Monti embodied the Soldiers Creed, Obama said, some precepts of which include: “‘I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.'”

Emerging from safety from behind his rock, Monti for the third time attempted to reach his fallen troop, Obama said, when he himself was fatally wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Monti’s last words, according to Obama, were: “I’ve made peace with God; tell my family that I love them.”

The NCO’s final charge was witnessed by his patrol leader, who later commented that “‘it was the bravest thing I had ever seen a soldier do,'” Obama said.

Nearly 3,500 people have earned the Medal of Honor since it was established during the Civil War. The medal is awarded to servicemembers who distinguishe themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while:

— Engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.

— Engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or

— Serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish individuals above their comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.

Read more about Monti and his service here.

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One Response to Update: President Awards Medal of Honor to Fallen Soldier’s Family

  1. Jeannette Duerr says:

    What have we done to deserve this?

    Yesterday was filled with news accounts about the Medal of Honor award to Sergeant First Class Jerard Monti. As the mother of a soldier who was deployed to Afghanistan at the same time that Sergeant Monti was killed there, it was painful to watch his parents try to help the rest of us understand who their son was and what it means to the world to have lost him. My heart was filled with “That could have been my son. That could have been Matt.” It could have been Matt because, in 2006, he, too, was a sergeant leading a small group of soldiers in some of the most dangerous terrain in the world. It could have been Matt because coalition forces made a big offensive push in June of that year in which he participated. I know now that there were many nights during that time that Matt and his unit did not think that they would survive until morning. Sergeant Monti would have turned 34 this week. Matt just turned 35.

    I think about my last conversation with Matt before that deployment (his first of three, including his current deployment to Iraq). “I don’t want to die, Mom,” he said. “I’m just not afraid to die. My greatest fear is losing one of my soldiers. I can’t bear the thought of losing one of my soldiers.” Throughout his Army career, Matt has put “his soldiers” first. Sgt. Monti called them “my boys” and he died because he would not leave one of his boys. Those soldiers, those boys (and girls) respond to this kind of leadership with devotion and sacrifice of their own.

    Like Sgt. Monti, Matt collected clothes and food for the children of Afghanistan. Our family and friends sent him enormous shipments of the things that he said they needed. Matt’s concern for the people among whom he finds himself didn’t begin in Afghanistan. I can still hear him when he was sent to his first assignment in a small village in Korea. “Mom, the kids are out in the cold without shoes!”

    Sergeant Monti donated his newly purchased kitchen set to one of his soldier’s families stateside. You have to know how important these soldiers are to each other and to their NCOs. Matt stops at nothing to find resources to help his soldiers who find themselves in trouble.

    As a teenager, Sgt. Monti cut down a fir tree in his family’s yard for another family with no Christmas tree. When Matt was little, an older, bigger neighbor boy delighted in bullying him, perhaps to compensate for a terribly chaotic family life. One day, Matt got off of the school bus without his jacket. “I gave it to Ben,” he said. “He just had a t-shirt on this morning and he was shivering on the bus. I had a warm shirt, so I gave him my jacket.” (And, the bullying stopped.)

    Clearly, these fierce warriors have a kind and compassionate side, seeking consensus before they seek conflict. Matt’s dear mother-in-law, commenting on one photo of him from Afghanistan, said, “It’s strange to see such a gentle man with such a big gun.”…and hand grenades, knives, and side arms. Perhaps that’s why military people like Sgt. Monti and Matt are so valuable to us – they don’t confuse their warrior mission with their place in humankind.

    So, these young men, the very best that our nation has, make enormous sacrifices – for each other and for us. Their families live with devastating loss, like the Montis. Or, like ours, struggle every day with the fear that someone will come to the door with the worst of news. Their absences cause a painful vacuum in our lives. As valuable as they are to their country, they are priceless to us. Regardless of the political context of their combat, they respond with honor and valor.

    While our military personnel are making the sacrifices that they are, back in the U.S., we are attacking each other like a particularly feral bunch of weasels. It just doesn’t seem to be a very good way to honor them, despite all of the “Support Our Troops” magnets in the world. We can support them by allowing them to bring out the best in the rest of us and becoming worthy of them.

    Do we deserve this sacrifice? Are the people of our nation working together to solve our challenges? Are we looking for common ground, to do what is best for all of us, not just “me and mine?” What is Sgt. Monti’s and Matt’s sacrifice – their families’ sacrifice – worth to you? Are we going to tear each other apart or are we going to settle down and make this nation work the way it’s supposed to work? On behalf of our gallant warriors and their families, I implore each of us to give meaning and dignity to their sacrifice.