A grieving father whose son died heroically fighting in Afghanistan inspired a hit country song that recently won an Academy of Country Music Award.
Two years ago, Paul Monti said on a public radio program that he drives his son Jared Monti’s truck to help remember him. “It’s him. It’s got his DNA all over it,” Monti said on the show “Here and Now.”
“I love driving it because it reminds me of him, though I don’t need the truck to remind me of him,” he added. “I think about him every hour of every day.”
Sergeant First Class Jared Monti was killed in action in a 2006 Afghanistan battle when he tried to save a wounded comrade. The effort earned him the Medal of Honour posthumously.
After Monti’s death, the mother of another soldier killed in the same battle — who also drives her son’s truck — urged Monti to listen to a popular country song called “I Drive Your Truck.”
The song was particularly moving to Monti since it resembled his life so eerily. “I remember not being able to listen to the entire song; I’d get into it a few bars or so, and just kind of welled up,” Monti said, in an interview with the National Public Radio program “All Things Considered.”
Despite the obvious similarities, Monti had no idea the song was inspired by him. “I wondered who wrote this song,” he said.
That was songwriter Connie Harrington, who listened to Monti’s comments on the radio two years ago. While driving, she frantically scribbled notes when Monti said he hasn’t cleaned the truck since before his son’s death and is happy driving it despite the poor gas mileage. “I’m crying and driving and I’m trying not to run off the road,” recalled Harrington of that moment.
Performed by country singer Lee Brice, “I Drive Your Truck” won Song of the Year April 6 at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Harrington recently contacted Monti to let him know his words had inspired the hit song. Watch the music video below to see the similarities.
If you made it to the end of that music video, you’ve heard more of the song than Monti, who admits he hasn’t listened to it all the way through because it is too emotional.
ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper has written about Jared Monti’s service in his 2012 book, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.”
According to Tapper, Jared cared more about helping others than obeying strict Army rules. While serving in Kosovo, Jared personally drove Muslim kids to their schools to prevent Christians from harassing them. When he stopped a private from beating up on another, Jared was demoted for touching a soldier of lower rank.
In 2006, Jared was one of 16 American soldiers ambushed on a high Afghanistan ridge by approximately 50 enemy fighters with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
A soldier named Brian Bradbury lay wounded in the open closest to the enemy’s position, 60 feet from his comrades. Jared volunteered to rescue him, exposing himself to overwhelming enemy fire from three directions. On his third attempt to reach Bradbury, Jared was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade that stopped him in his tracks.
He was in excruciating pain, but the intense fire prevented rescue from his comrades, who tried to soothe Jared by asking him questions about home. Tapper documented Jared’s final words to his comrades: “Tell my mum and dad I love them. Tell them I made my peace with God.”
In his interview with NPR, Monti describes his son as the type of person who always did what was right and never gave up on anything. “Trying to save Brian Bradbury and going out to get him not once or twice, but three times was just — well, that’s Jared — he won’t give up,” Monti said.
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