Newest Medal of Honor recipient honored at Pentagon
September 18, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 18, 2009) -- Department of Defense and Army officials inducted fallen hero Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes in a ceremony here today.
President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Monti's parents, Paul Monti and Janet Monti, in a White House ceremony Thursday, and the Pentagon ceremony further honored their son, enshrining him with the nation's other top heroes.
"Today every Soldier, Sailor, every Marine, every Airman, every civilian in the Department of Defense, more than 3 million of us, salute your son," Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III told Monti's parents.
Monti became the first Soldier to earn the Medal of Honor for Operation Enduring Freedom in an intense firefight in Afghanistan, June 21, 2006, when he ran into enemy fire three times to try and rescue one of his Soldiers, Pfc. Brian J. Bradbury, who lay injured on an open plateau. A rocket-propelled grenade stopped his third attempt, mortally wounding Monti just meters from Bradbury.
"The final chapter of his life, on that mountain ridge in Afghanistan, summed up his entire being," outgoing Secretary of the Army Pete Geren said. "For most of us, for nearly all of us, I would say, the situation he faced on that ridge that early evening in Afghanistan, would have left us paralyzed at least by indecision, if not by fear."
"For Jared, it wasn't complicated. Pfc. Bradbury needed help, and he was going to help him, an act so extraordinary for the rest of us, we recognize it with the Medal of Honor, but for those who knew Jared, it was just 'Jared being Jared.'"
Monti and 15 other Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment (Recon), 3rd Brigade Combat Team, were on a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan's Gremen Valley, near the Pakistan border. They were supposed to report back on Taliban insurgents in the region before the 3rd BCT began a larger push known as Operation Gowardesh Thrust.
Members of the group reached their first observation point on a plateau at 2,600 meters the evening of June 20, with the main operation scheduled to begin the next day. But when commanders decided to delay the attack by at least 24 hours, the men needed additional food, water and batteries. A resupply drop the next afternoon alerted the Taliban to the American presence, and 40 to 60 insurgents attacked their position only hours later, trying to flank the Soldiers and push them down the mountain.
The force of their firepower was overwhelming, like nothing now-Sgt. 1st Class Christopher M. Cunningham, the other patrol leader, had ever seen. Some of the Soldiers had their weapons shot out of their hands and others couldn't even reach their weapons. The men dove behind a few boulders for cover as Monti radioed for close air support.
Cunningham soon realized Bradbury was missing and offered to get him, but Monti said that since Bradbury was his Soldier, he would go.
"Monti ran straight for Bradbury as we all provided covering fire," now-Staff Sgt. John Hawes wrote to Monti's mother Janet. "I remember seeing Monti running and I was firing ... as close as I dared ... Just as he was about to reach Bradbury, I ran out of ammo and as I dropped behind the rock to change magazines ... I heard an RPG ... explode. Monti's scream that he had been hit followed shortly after."
Monti told his comrades he had made his peace with God and asked Cunningham to tell his parents he loved them.
"The courage Monti showed in trying to save Bradbury was the most courageous, inspiring and selfless act I have ever seen and I shall never forget it," Hawes continued, explaining Monti had given the men something to live up to.
"When Monti ran out ... to try and save his fellow Soldier, he did it fully knowing the tremendous danger involved ... but did so anyway out of the love for a fellow Soldier and friend. Sergeant First Class Monti is the bravest and most courageous person I shall ever know, a hero in every aspect of the word."
All his Soldiers knew Monti would do anything for them - he gave up his leave so they could spend Christmas with their families and once donated his kitchen table to a Soldier whose kids were eating off the floor, much to the consternation of his roommate - so giving his life wasn't a surprise, and Monti's family, friends and Soldiers all know he would do it again if he could.
"Every Soldier ... knows and understands the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage," Vice Chief of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said during the ceremony. "Sergeant First Class Monti not only knew these values, he lived them every single day. And, on that last day, he demonstrated to the young Soldiers in his patrol exactly what those values mean in a difficult and dangerous environment."
But the last thing he would have wanted was recognition. Monti was humble to a fault and even hid high school sports trophies from his parents. Most of his family and boyhood friends didn't even know he had received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart on a previous deployment until they saw the medals at his funeral.
"He would not be here," Paul Monti told the crowd after comparing his son's life to the Prayer of Saint Francis, "If alive to receive this award, he would be in the middle of a woods somewhere, or most probably in a bar, drinking them down, telling someone, 'Yeah, well they wanted to give me the Medal of Honor, but you know,' because he would not want it ....
"I accept it in his name, not just for him, but for all of you men and women who serve our country and protect our freedom and our way of life."