On June 21, 2006, Staff Sergeant Jared C. Monti, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, US Army, led a 16 man patrol on an intelligence mission in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.
The patrol was attacked by 50 enemy fighters and almost overrun. Monti personally engaged the enemy, directed his men to a defensive position and called for fire support, accurately targeting combatants who had closed to within 50 meters of him.
Staff Sergeant Monti then saw one of his men was lying wounded and calling for help in the open ground between him and the advancing enemy.
With complete disregard for his own safety, he made three attempts to rescue his comrade before being mortally wounded, sacrificing his own life to save a fellow Soldier.
For this act of uncommon valor, Jared Monti was awarded his country’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
This is Memorial Day weekend in the United States, and across the country, flags will hang from front porches and open windows to honor those who serve or have served and those who have fallen in the service of their country.
Many of those homes will display a second flag. A simple one with a red border on a white field enclosing a gold star. This is the flag presented to parents whose son or daughter lies among the fallen.
Two years ago, one Gold Star Parent, Paul Monti, Jared’s father, appeared on the local NPR station in Oxford, Mississippi to talk about what it was like to have a son killed in action.
Among the things Paul Monti discussed was Jared’s truck. How he still owned it and still drove it from time to time.
“It’s got his DNA all over it. I love driving it because it reminds me of him, though I don’t need the truck to remind me of him. I think about him every hour of every day.”
Paul Monti went on about the truck in detail, it’s connection to his loss and what it symbolized to him.
Not far away, in Nashville, Tennessee, songwriter Connie Harrington listened in her car, forced to pull to the roadside as her eyes welled up with tears. She frantically scribbled down every detail she could, went home and wrote a song.
Last month, that song, “I Drive Your Truck”, sung by Country star Lee Brice, reached number one on the Billboard charts.
Among the people who heard it was a woman who called Paul Monti. Her son had died in the same battle as his son –- and like him she assuaged her grief by driving his truck.
This weekend, give a thought to those who serve and those who grieve the fallen.
And Enjoy Your Sunday.