Obama Honors Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:

President Obama awarded the nation’s highest military decoration, posthumously, to Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti, this afternoon in a somber ceremony in the East Room.

“The Medal of Honor reflects the admiration and gratitude of the nation,” President Obama said in awarding his first Medal of Honor. “Compassion. Perseverance. Strength. A love for his fellow soldiers. Those are the values that defined Jared Monti's life -- and the values he displayed in the actions that we recognize here today.”

The president recalled the act of bravery of Sergeant Monti on June 21, 2006, in a remote area of Northeast Afghanistan which ultimately led the 30-year-old to lose his life saving others in his division. When his patrol of 16 was fired on and outnumbers by a force over 50 Monti refused to leave his fallen comrades behind.

“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 enemy in 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.…And so, for a third time, he rose.”

Mr. Obama said that Monti’s final words were on faith and family.

"I've made peace with God," he said. "Tell my family that I love them."

“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," Obama said. "By the end of the night, Jared and three others, including the soldier he died trying to save, had given their lives.”

The president told anecdotes of Monti’s life – which he describes as a “culmination of a life of character and commitment,” – a kid at school who, upon seeing a student eating lunch alone, would walk over and befriend him, a teenager who cut down a spruce tree in his yard so a single mom in town would have a Christmas tree for her children, and the soldier in Afghanistan who received care packages and gave them away to Afghan children who needed them more.

“Guided by the lessons he learned at home, Jared became the consummate NCO -- the non-commissioned officer caring for his soldiers and teaching his troops. He called them his 'boys.' And although obviously he was still young himself, some of them called him 'grandpa.’”

Monti’s parents accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf today and joined President Obama at the podium for the reading of the citation.

In the audience were three Medal of Honor recipients, members of Congress (including Senator John Kerry and Congressman Barney Frank from Monti’s home state), Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and Monti's fellow soldiers and commanders from the 10th Mountain Division.

-Sunlen Miller

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