- Associated Press - Sunday, February 8, 2015

RAYNHAM, Mass. (AP) - A new book sheds light on the life and legacy of Jared Monti, a Medal of Honor recipient from Raynham, highlighting moments of kindness and charity in his civilian and military life that led up to his final act of selflessness on the battlefield.

“See You on the High Ground: The Jared Monti Story” was written by Westford resident Len Sandler, who quit his job as a consultant for a year to research and write the book. Sandler was at the American Legion Hall in Raynham recently for a book signing, drawing a long line of people who came from all over the state.

“There are so many things he did to touch the lives of people,” Sandler, 68, said, speaking of Monti’s humanitarian side. “That was what was so exciting, to uncover this hidden story that not many people knew about. . The truth is, Medal of Honor recipient is not the whole story. It’s not so much what he did, but who he was that’s important.”

Monti was 30 when he died in June 2006 while making multiple attempts to rescue a wounded soldier on a mountain in Afghanistan, despite incoming machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously for those efforts. Monti’s memory was also celebrated in the award-winning country song, “I Drive Your Truck,” which became popular on airwaves nationwide in 2013.

“Writing the book was incredible,” Sandler said. “There is the obvious story that has been in the newspapers, but there is so much more beneath the surface. . His uncles and father and mother were surprised to hear some of these things that they didn’t know before.”

One example of Monti’s good deeds was when he carried a 70-pound bag for a fellow soldier, who became dehydrated, winded and nauseous while climbing a mountain. Monti didn’t tell anyone else about the incident, but it inspired the soldier he helped out.

“The private first class, who wanted to remain nameless, wasn’t ready for this first hike,” Sandler said. “But he said, ‘What I appreciated most is that (Monti) never let anybody know that I was having such trouble on the mountain.’ The private said he was inspired to work on physical conditioning, so he could keep up with the other guys.”

Another portion of the book about Monti’s childhood details a time when he chopped down a spruce tree in his family’s yard. Monti’s parents confronted him about it, and Monti told them that he and his friends just wanted to have a Christmas together.

But the truth was that Monti and his buddies were taking the tree to help provide a Christmas holiday to a single mother with three young children.

“They brought it over to her house, set up the tree, put up the lights, decorated it and bought presents for her and the kids,” the book states. “They bought them Christmas dinner. (Monti’s parents) didn’t find out about it until years later.”

The book’s title comes from a mantra kept by forward observers like Monti, who was a so-called “FiSTer” for the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.

“They are the ones who might go behind enemy lines or climb a mountain to observe the enemy, and then call in support through artillery or aircraft,” Sandler said. “So ‘see you on the high ground’ is their mantra. I’ll be overlooking the enemy. It’s a very dangerous job and one of the most important jobs.”

Sandler said he started writing the book after rekindling his childhood friendship with Paul Monti after 50 years, asking the elder Monti for his permission in writing the story.

Paul Monti said he is happy with the results.

“It’s really incredible,” Paul Monti said.

Sandler said he is “really proud” of the result, calling it the most important work he’s ever done in his life.

Sandler said he was happy to interview Monti’s mother, Janet, in addition to other family members. Janet Monti thanked all the childhood friends, family members and fellow soldiers, and said that she was “blown away” by the stories she had never heard before.

Among the long line of guests who came to the American Legion in Raynham on Sunday to get their books signed was Carlos Arredondo, whose face and cowboy hat became symbols of the response to the Boston Marathon bombing, after he was pictured rushing Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs, to an ambulance.

Arredondo is also a Gold Star Father, after his son Alexander Arredondo was killed at age 20 while serving in Iraq in 2004. Arredondo greeted fellow Gold Star Father Paul Monti at the book signing.

“We’ve been together honoring our sons and daughters throughout all this conflict,” Arredondo said about the Gold Star Families. “We honor this gentleman who paid the ultimate sacrifice. We’ve been learning, ever since his loss, who he has been all these years. It’s impacted not only the families, but the whole community.”

Susan Doherty of Walpole was there with her friend Eilieen Monyhan of Pittsfield, who together have participated in several veterans-related charity fundraiser events. Doherty said that they learned the story of Raynham’s Monti when they heard the “I Drive Your Truck” song by Lee Brice.

“I just wanted to come out and pay tribute to his dad and the legacy he has,” said Doherty, who has laid flowers at Monti’s grave at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.

Teresa Collins of Marblehead said that she has always supported the “Monti’s Ride” motorcycle fundraiser. Collins said she hopes the book helps continue to educate others about the brave and selfless service of Monti and others like him.

“We need America to know about the story and the sacrifices that all military families make in the service of our country,” Collins said. “I’m absolutely excited to learn more about Jared. The spirit and strength he offers and demonstrated is something more Americans need to learn today.”

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