By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
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.