- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

Presenting his first Medal of Honor since being elected, President Obama on Thursday praised a U.S. soldier who three times left cover to rescue trapped colleagues while Taliban bullets and grenades rained around him, ultimately losing his own life while trying to save his comrade on an Afghan battlefield.

A somber Mr. Obama, standing just feet from Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti’s parents, told a White House audience that the 30-year-old soldier’s sacrifice should give Americans pause when they throw around words such as duty, honor, sacrifice and heroism.

“Do we really grasp the meaning of these values? Do we truly understand the nature of these virtues, to serve and to sacrifice?” Mr. Obama asked. “Jared Monti knew. The Monti family knows. And they know that the actions we honor today were not a passing moment of courage.”

Mr. Obama lavished praise on the soldier from Raynham, Mass., who was leading a scouting mission along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan on June 21, 2006, when a helicopter deployed to resupply the patrol blew their cover. Taliban fighters converged, and Sgt. Monti called for backup.

With vivid details, the president told the story of 16 soldiers who were surrounded and outnumbered by insurgents, yet kept their position until reinforcements arrived.

“Bullets and heavy machine-gun fire ricocheting across the rocks. Rocket-propelled grenades raining down. Fire so intense that weapons were shot right out of their hands,” Mr. Obama recounted, explaining the battle to a packed audience at the White House. “Within minutes, one soldier was killed, another was wounded. Everyone dove for cover, behind a tree, a rock, a stone wall.”

One of Sgt. Monti’s men, Pvt. Brian Bradbury of St. Joseph, Mo., was shot during the encounter. Sgt. Monti, who enlisted at age 17, twice left cover and ran into the open under intense enemy fire to retrieve the wounded soldier.

“Jared Monti did something no amount of training can instill. His patrol leader said he’d go, but Jared said, ‘No, he is my soldier. I’m going to get him,’ ” recounted Mr. Obama. “Said his patrol leader, it ‘was the bravest thing I had ever seen a soldier do.’ ”

On Sgt. Monti’s third attempt, he was struck by a grenade and died on the field. Three others, including Pvt. Bradbury, also died during the fight.

The Medal of Honor is the highest U.S. award for military valor, typically reserved for members of the military who risk their lives with gallantry beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Monti is the 3,448th service member to earn the honor.

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