Medal of Honor winner Jared Monti remembered as Raynham pays heartfelt tribute

Staff reports

As Paul Monti spoke of the son he lost to war, Jared Monti's jacket hung on the wall at the Raynham Middle School, not far from his Medal of Honor and the flag that draped his coffin.

“My son Jared didn’t join the Army to be a hero. He never wanted a medal, a trophy or prizes. He never tried to get the Medal of Honor. He simply wanted to serve his country to protect our freedom and way of life,” a tearful Paul Monti told students at a Veterans Day tribute. “He was a boy who always wanted to do the right thing,”

His presence at the 7th Annual Salute to the Troops and tribute to Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti was a sobering reminder of the sacrifice of those who serve and the high cost paid by some.

Before he died in battle and received the nation’s highest military honor, Jared Monti attended the same schools and played on the same sports teams as the youngsters seated in the gymnasium listening to his father’s words.

Retired Army Capt. Christopher Leahy was asked why so many ordinary citizens “freely and without hesitation” give up the comforts of home to risk their lives for their country.

Leahy said he joined the military to honor the spirit of the Pilgrims, the authors of the Constitution, for the veterans who served before him, for his family, for white picket fences and apple pie and for fishing at Johnson’s Pond.

“This is my America. Those are my values and that is why I serve,” Leahy said.

A moment of silence was held for Monti, for Marine Cpl. Brian Oliveira, 22, of Raynham, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, and for Daniel MaGuire, the 19-year old cousin of two middle school students who was killed in Iraq in 2008.

Selectmen Chairman Donald McKinnon, a Korean-era veteran, read a letter penned by Monti’s commanding officer after he was killed in Afghanistan on June 21, 2006, trying to rescue his wounded soldiers.

“He was that which makes us salute when we see our nation’s flag and cry when we remember,” Army Capt. Joe Hansen wrote of Monti. “It is men such as this that shrouds us with our freedom at home and provides us our armor in battle. It is men such as this that we pause and sigh in the half light of our lives and wish it were otherwise.”

Veterans from all branches of the military and from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan were also honored.

Among those recognized were World War II Army veteran Harold Lundberg, 84, and his son Steve Lundberg, 50, a Navy veteran; retired Navy Lt. Commander James Mulvihill, who served on eight battleships between 1947 and 1979; members of the Navy Reserve Unit in Newport, R. I. and soldiers from the 772nd, including Jonathan O’Brien, 23, a 2004 Bridgewater-Raynham graduate.

After the ceremony, students browsed over a display of photographs of Jared Monti as a young boy. He’s shown grinning in his baseball uniform, at his grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner and with his mother at his junior high school graduation.

There was also a picture of Monti as a 30-year old soldier taken in the year he died.

The students remembered Paul Monti’s message to them. “I don’t ask you to join the service. I don’t ask you to be a hero,” he had said. “Just do the right thing.”

“I thought it was very powerful and nice,” 13-year-old Frances Aikeins said. “I liked it when he said we should always do the right thing,”

The Salute to the Troops started in 2003 when school custodian Keith Ledin was deployed with the Air Force National Guard following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Last year, students celebrated the day with the safe return from Afghanistan of teacher Eric Cedrone.

Raynham Call