On this day in 2006, a hero makes the ultimate sacrifice. Jared C. Monti was known for his toughness, his bravery—and his thoughtfulness towards others. How unsurprising, then, that he rushed to save one of his men in Afghanistan, regardless of the cost to himself.
“It was written long ago,” President Barack Obama said during Monti’s Medal of Honor ceremony, “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.”
Then-Staff Sergeant Monti’s heroism came in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. He was part of a 16-man patrol tasked with setting up an over-watch position atop a mountain. The soldiers were to provide support for a larger operation intended for the valley below.
The American team began their trek into mountainous territory on June 18. Unfortunately, a delay in the main operation left our soldiers atop a mountain without enough food and water. A helicopter soon brought them fresh food and supplies, but the resupply effort was unfortunately seen by one of the enemy.
When night fell, the enemy attacked.
“Bullets and heavy machine gunfire ricocheting across the rocks,” the President described as he awarded Monti’s Medal. “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.”
“I remember thinking ‘Shit, I am going to die,’” Pfc. Derek James later said. “We are all going to die.”
One soldier fell, separated from the others. Pvt. Brian Bradbury’s wounds were serious. “You can tell Bradbury is slowly slipping away,” Sgt. Joshua Renken later recounted. “We are doing everything we can to keep him talking.”
But Monti did even more. He was leading the artillery team, and he’d already called for an artillery strike. Now, he handed his radio to Staff Sgt. Chris Grzecki. “That’s my guy. I am going to get him,” Monti said simply.
Two times, Monti ran for Bradbury but was pushed back by the intense enemy fire. Would you believe he still got up for a third attempt? His patrol leader called it “the bravest thing I had ever seen a soldier do.”
“They say it was a rocket-propelled grenade,” the President said, “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.’”
Monti didn’t make it, but the artillery he called for hit the area soon after his run for Bradbury. The enemy retreated. Before too long, a medevac helicopter had arrived.
“I remember hearing the flight medic they dropped down say ‘Hey, don’t worry. I am gonna get you guys out of here,’ ” said Spc. Sean Smith.
That medic was Staff Sgt. Heathe Craig. He strapped Bradbury to a stretcher and joined him as the wounded soldier was hoisted into the helicopter. Sadly, matters took yet another tragic twist: The cable pulling the two men up to the helicopter snapped. They plummeted to the ground. Neither would survive.
The men and women in our military make sacrifices in all sorts of ways, don’t they?
“I accepted the fact that I was gonna die that day on that mountain,” Smith later told a reporter. “I do know now it’s made me a better soldier because one of these days, I will be a leader and I will be able to speak from experience and tell my soldiers the bad guys are bad, they will try to kill you. You don’t realize how terrifying it is.”
Meanwhile, Monti was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class. His parents received a Medal of Honor on his behalf.
Rest in peace, sir.