America’s Newest Medal of Honor Recipient

“I’VE MADE PEACE WITH GOD” – America’s newest Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient

By retired Navy Chaplain Don K. Clements

On July 24, 2009, by a vote of the Congress, Sergeant First Class Jared Monti of Raynham, Massachusetts, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. On September 17th President Obama made the posthumous presentation of the medal to his parents in the White House. Monti is only the sixth person from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be awarded the Medal of Honor, and is the second Medal of Honor recipient from the conflict in Afghanistan.
According to reports from his fellow soldiers who survived the conflict in which Monti gave his life, his final words were ‘I’m at peace with God; tell my family I love them.”

Monti was raised in southeastern Massachusetts where the majority of families are Roman Catholic. The Monti family was among those who treated their faith with religious seriousness, not just a sociological factor.

At his funeral, big sister Niccole offered the eulogy to the solemn attendants with her younger brother, Tim, by her side. She said she wanted to answer the common question “once and for all” of the reason behind her brother being in the military and constantly putting himself in risky situations.

“It was a calling from God,” she said. Highlighting the many aspects of her brother’s life, she relayed facts about Monti that moved mourners to laugh and cry.

Another family member, giving a Scripture reading during the service, referred to a gospel passage where Jesus healed a servant upon the request of a Roman centurion who was kind to the Jewish people. He likened the centurion to Monti, who would give everything he received in care packages to the poverty-stricken children in Afghanistan and gave up his vacation time so the soldiers who were married could spend time with their families during holidays.

At the White House Ceremony, Monti’s father said, “I would rather have him back than all the medals, but it’s fitting that (Jared) should be recognized for his act.”

He said his son, whose dream was to serve in the military and then become a history teacher, “would be appalled” by the attention he is receiving now. “(Jared) would say, ‘Dad, I was just doing my job,’ ” he said.

The following report is an edited version of a story from NorthShoreJournal.com:

SFC Jared Monti served as the assistant leader of a 16-man patrol and leader of an artillery forward observer team with that patrol, which was tasked with gathering intelligence in Gowardesh, Nuristan Province, in northeastern Afghanistan. They’d been on the move for three days — down dirt roads; sloshing through rivers; hiking up steep mountain trails, their heavy gear on their backs; moving at night and in the early morning to avoid the scorching 100-degree heat. Their mission: to keep watch on the valley down below in advance of an operation to clear the area of militants.

The team set-up a small base on a ridge. The team was also supposed to support an operation in the valley below by a larger Army unit. The larger operation was delayed and Monti’s team began to run low on provisions, so a helicopter delivery was made, giving away the team’s position

Those who were there remember that evening on the mountain — a rocky ridge, not much bigger than this room. Some were standing guard, knowing they had been spotted by a man in the valley. Some were passing out MREs and water. There was talk of home and plans for leave. Jared was overheard remembering his time serving in Korea. Then, just before dark, there was a shuffle of feet in the woods. And that’s when the treeline exploded in a wall of fire.

One member of the patrol said it was “like thousands of rifles crackling.” Bullets and heavy machine gunfire ricocheting across the rocks. Rocket-propelled grenades raining down. Fire so intense that weapons were shot right out of their hands. Within minutes, one soldier was killed; another was wounded. Everyone dove for cover. Behind a tree. A rock. A stone wall. This patrol of 16 men was facing a force of some 50 fighters. Outnumbered, the risk was real. They might be overrun. They might not make it out alive.

That’s when Jared Monti did what he was trained to do. With the enemy advancing — so close they could hear their voices — he got on his radio and started calling in artillery. When the enemy tried to flank them, he grabbed a gun and drove them back. And when they came back again, he tossed a grenade and drove them back again. And when these American soldiers saw one of their own — wounded, lying in the open, some 20 yards away, exposed to the approaching enemy — Jared Monti did something no amount of training can instill. His patrol leader said he’d go, but Jared said, “No, he is my soldier, I’m going to get him.”

It was written long ago that “the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet, notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” Jared Monti saw the danger before him. And he went out to meet it.

He handed off his radio. He tightened his chin strap. And with his men providing cover, Jared rose and started to run. Into all those incoming bullets. Into all those rockets. Upon seeing Jared, the enemyin the woods unleashed a firestorm. He moved low and fast, yard after yard, then dove behind a stone wall.

A moment later, he rose again. And again they fired everything they had at him, forcing him back. Faced with overwhelming enemy fire, Jared could have stayed where he was, behind that wall. But that was not the kind of soldier Jared Monti was. He embodied that creed all soldiers strive to meet: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.” And so, for a third time, he rose. For a third time, he ran toward his fallen comrade. Said his patrol leader, it “was the bravest thing I had ever seen a soldier do.”

They say it was a rocket-propelled grenade; that Jared made it within a few yards of his wounded soldier. They say that his final words, there on that ridge far from home, were of his faith and his family: “I’ve made peace with God. Tell my family that I love them.”

And then, as the artillery that Jared had called in came down, the enemy fire slowed, then stopped. The patrol had defeated the attack. They had held on — but not without a price. By the end of the night, Jared and three others, including the soldier he died trying to save, had given their lives.

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