I’ve posted before both in my blog and on Facebook about how much I appreciate the men and women who serve and have served in our armed forces. If you’re not willing to defend your freedom, then someone will take it from you. This is a common theme throughout history and appears to be both part of the human condition and something that won’t change (certainly not any time soon). This is why I support the military since without them, we’d live in a very different world here in the United States. Perhaps we’d all be speaking German, or maybe Russian or Japanese or some other language and the freedoms we take for granted would have been long since stripped away. This country was paid for by the blood of those who stood up for it. From the original patriots who gained our freedom from the British to the hundreds of thousands that were killed in WWII to the tens of thousands who have since given their lives in places like Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq.
I have very low tolerance for those who claim our engagements are all about protecting business interests like big oil. South Korea is a very different place today because we drew a line and stood firm. And while our engagements in the Middle East may in fact protect our interests in oil, it’s not about wasting people’s lives so Shell Oil or BP can keep producing. If we had not remained deployed with bases throughout Europe, it would be a VERY different place than it is today and not likely one most people would enjoy. So while lots of mistakes have been made in our foreign policies over the years, and there have been plenty of times the military leadership of our country as well as the politicians have ‘blown it’, I’d prefer what we have warts and all, to what I believe the alternatives would be had America not stood up so many times and defended freedom for itself and countless others which in turn has slowed as well as eliminated other forms of government that were significantly oppressive to people.
Our military is awesome because the people who volunteer to serve do so largely by choice. We are blessed to live in a world (and even more blessed to live in this country) where other fellow Americans love our freedoms so much that they are willing to lay down their lives to protect them. I know that when they are in the battle they fight for each other, but they still are also fighting for us and to protect the freedoms we enjoy as well as to advance those freedoms to elsewhere in the world by helping democracies form and take root.
Memorial day is a time when we honor those who died while serving in the military. This is not to be confused with Veterans day which honors our military veterans who may be alive today or at least came home from their war alive and have since passed. This is a time to honor those who never made it home or when they came home it was in a coffin. How blessed and fortunate the rest of us are that we are surrounded by men and women who value our freedom so much that they would sacrifice their lives to ensure the freedom and safety of their generation and for future generations to come.
One of those people who died while serving their country is Medal Of Honor recipient Jared Monti. I grew up with Jared’s mom Janet and dad Paul in my life as they were great friends of my older brother Bill and his then girlfriend and now wife Marcia. I remember being in my early teens and becoming an uncle as Bill and Marcia had their children and around the same time frame Paul and Janet’s family was growing and before long they had a daughter Nicole and sons Jared and Tim. While I never got to know them very well and my own young life took me off in other directions, I’d still bump into them at my brother’s place sometimes. I always enjoyed hearing from one of my high school friends Jim Monti, another member of the Monti family, who would talk about Jared and how fast he was growing up.
So while I never got to know Jared well, I felt connected to him and his family. Jared grew up to be a wonderful man who knew early that he wanted to serve. He joined the delayed entry program as a junior in high school and pretty much went straight into active duty right after he graduated. His original plan was perhaps to use his service as a way to get college educated, but he quickly grew to embrace and embody all the characteristics the military hold so dear. Duty, honor, sacrifice, strength, service are just a few of the core beliefs that Jared lived and demonstrated most every day. He served in Kosovo, Korea and Afghanistan and reenlisted without hesitation as he became the consummate NCO who watched out for his troops. He had an infectious smile and a warmth about him and his troops wanted to serve him because he measured his success not by how his superiors felt about him but by how his soldiers felt about him. He was a true leader that did not tell others what to do. He showed them, taught them, and he would do those same things that he asked of others and because they knew that, they would follow him anywhere.
During one of his tours in Afghanistan, on June 21st 2006 Staff Sargent Jared Monti and his 16 man patrol were attacked by as many as 50 enemy fighters. After calling in indirect fire support while being pinned behind a rock formation he engaged the enemy multiple times personally as they tried to flank his troops position. Then, Monti discovered one of his men Pfc. Bradbury was severely wounded and unable to move and was laying in an open depression about 20 meters away. Another soldier Staff Sargent Cunningham yelled over to Monti that he would go for Bradley. Without hesitation Monti insisted that Bradley was his soldier, handed off his radio and moved out from behind cover to retrieve Bradbury. Under machine gun fire moving low and fast Monti was twice forced back under small rock cover but managed to get within a few meters of Bradbury. Not willing to give up, Monti attempted a 3rd time where he was mortally wounded by an RPG that exploded in his path. Unable to move from the severity of his wounds Monti spoke to his unit and said he had made his peace with God, asked them to tell his parents that he loved them and then went silent.
Nothing I write here could do justice to the bravery and heroism of Monti and countless others who have gone before him (and after him) who have made similar sacrifice for their brothers in arms and for our freedoms. But if you happen to read this and my writing was good enough to keep you interested to get this far, hopefully you now know a bit more about Jared and memorial day 2014 can be a little more personal and real as you connect with someone who embodied all that we value from our troops.
Thanks Jared. You would not have remembered me but I won’t forget you.
In loving memory of Medal Of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti.