This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories and we tell stories about everything here on this show.
Up next, a story in a way about a song but so much more. You might know the song I Drive Your Truck by Lee Brice, but do you know the story of the man who inspired the song? His name was Jared Monti. And he was a hero of the highest caliber.
Here to tell Jared's story is Paul Monti, his father. I think his lot in life was to try to bring joy to anybody and everybody that he ever met. Well, Jared was a very adventurous kid. There wasn't a tree too high for him to climb or a hill.
There wasn't a body of water too wide, too deep for him to cross. There were certain characteristics in him that became apparent as he grew. We like to talk about his life in terms of three principles that he lived by. The first of which was to always try your hardest and this we noticed with him whether it was sports or school or anything else that he had to do. He was a kid that always gave 100% to everything he did.
His second principle was to never give up and that became also apparent. One of the stories I like to tell regarding that was he was a really, really good basketball player. He was pretty much the shortest kid in his class, but he was a heck of a basketball player. And when he went to middle school, he tried out for the JV team and he was the last one cut from the team. His fellow players said they were all going to quit because Monty wasn't picked. And Jared got them together and talked to them and said, hey, you don't quit. You guys keep going.
Don't worry about me. So that passed and the next year, middle school, he tried out for the team again and again he was the last cut. And then the third year, he tried out again, this time for the varsity. And the varsity coach came up to him and said, Jared, why don't you accept the position as team manager?
And you can warm up with the team before games, but of course you can't play. And he accepted that. After the second game, the coach found a uniform for him because it was kind of embarrassing. He was the only one in street clothes warming up. And then after the third game, the coach started using him as a mop-up player towards the end of a game. By the end of the season, he was outscoring some of the starters on the team. At his graduation from middle school, when they were giving out the awards for the basketball team, the coach got up and read all the names. Then when he got to the end, he said this last guy is the epitome of what an athlete should be.
And he's the biggest mistake that I ever made in my 25 years of coaching basketball. What an honor to a young man, and what courage it took for him to do that. And to be that guy that never gave up, that kept on trying. What a character he must have had to do that kind of a thing. He always did the right thing.
No matter what it cost him personally, doing the right thing was just part of him. You know, one day when I came home and looked in his room, his bed was missing. And I called him and I said, Jared, where's your bed? He said, well, Dad, one of my friends was kicked out of his house. He's sleeping over someone else's house. They don't have a bed for him.
He's sleeping on the floor and he can't sleep. I don't mind sleeping on the floor, Dad, so I gave him my bed. Another incident, he came to me one day and said, Dad, would you mind if I cut down one of those spruce trees we have in the front of the house? I said, well, what do you want that for? He said, well, guys and I, we want to have our own Christmas tree. I said, well, okay, go ahead. And it was only after his death when one of his friends came up to me and said, Mr. Monty, you remember the Christmas tree Jared cut down?
I said, yeah. He said, well, he didn't really cut that down for us. He found a single mom in town that had three kids and didn't have enough money to celebrate Christmas with the kids. So he brought it to her house and got lights for it and ornaments for it. He bought presents for all the kids and for the woman and then he stayed and made Christmas dinner for them all and never told a soul.
It's these kinds of things that he did and with great humility. I remember a day when he asked me to drive him to a weightlifting competition. I did. I drove him there and I said, well, when do you want me to pick you up or do you want me to come in? He said, no, no, no, no, no.
I've got to ride home with somebody else. Now, after his death, I went up to clean his room and underneath his bed was a box full of trophies. He had soccer trophies and baseball trophies and basketball trophies, but what stood out was this three-foot trophy that was under the bed of a weightlifter.
And I read the plaque and it said, New England Weightlifting Championships, first place, under 17 division, Jared Monti. Never told anybody. It wasn't being done for personal gain.
It was just this is something I want to do to, you know, for myself. And that's what he did. It just carried on throughout his life and the culmination of all of that was on that day that he died. And you're listening to Paul Monti tell the story of his fallen son. And my goodness, if you're a son and your dad speaks these words over you like this, you are one lucky man.
And if you're a dad who gets to speak these words about his son, you're one lucky father. When we come back, more of this remarkable story, this beautiful story, Father and Son Bond, a fallen soldier story, more of Paul Monti's story and Jared's here on Our American Story. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to OurAmericanStories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.
That's OurAmericanStories.com. And we return to Our American Stories and the story of Sergeant First Class Jared Monti. Jared Monti. When we last left off, Paul Monti, Jared's father, was telling us about the kind of person that his son was.
Let's pick up where we last left off. Well, it was his junior year in high school. He came home and said, Dad, can I talk to you? I said, sure. He said, I want to join the Army, Dad. And I said, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. He said, you know, you're an A student. You're going to go to college, son. I said, well, Dad, you can't afford to send me to college. And I said, well, you know, Jared, I'll just get another job. He said, Dad, you're already working two and three jobs.
Let me do this. I'll go in the Army and they'll pay for my college. What was I to say? Being only 17, I had to sign papers for him.
I did very reluctantly. But like I had said before, he was a very adventurous kid. This really appealed to him, this idea of the adventure of the military and seeing the world. And he loved his country.
So there it was. It was made for him. He was a 13F, forward observer, what we used to call the Suicide Squad because they were always operating behind enemy lines. That bothered me, too.
I mean, like I said, we called it the Suicide Squad. But danger, dangerous things never bothered him. You know, he loved the roller coaster. He loved riding a motorcycle. That kind of thing didn't bother him. And especially in the military where he knew how important it was to saving lives. That's what he loved. He, a number of times, got himself into trouble in the military for that kind of a thing, of being a little more adventurous than some officer wanted him to be.
I remember an incident in South Korea where he had to take his platoon out on basically a war games maneuver. And they came to a stream which was flowing really quickly. They were supposed to cross the stream. And when Jared saw the stream, he halted his guise and said, you know what, that doesn't look safe at all.
Let me go out and check it and make sure it's safe for all of us. Now, being a sergeant at that time, normally you would assign that to, you know, a private or someone. But Jared always led from the front. It was always my boys, Dad, my boys. He looked upon them as young people that he had to protect. It was his job to make sure his guys were safe. So he forded the stream, but he ended up getting washed downstream. They all thought he was dead.
But luckily enough, there was a floating branch in the water that he was able to cling to until they found him and took him out. But that's, again, it was always a matter of him taking the chances and not allowing his boys to be in the line of danger. That's just who he was.
It's just what he did. And yeah, he ended up being twice deployed to Afghanistan. Probably the most dangerous area in all of Afghanistan was this area in the Kuna Valley. This was the place where the Taliban would come in from Pakistan. This was their main route, and the army had decided that they were going to put a kibosh on this.
They had tried a number of times and were never successful. But they did put together this plan. So Jared with his platoon and Chris Cunningham, who was another sergeant, he was a sniper and he had his snipers. So there were 16 of them all together.
Eight of them were forward observers and eight snipers. And they were tasked to climb this mountain. The mountain was 8,500 feet high to set up an observation post at the top of the mountain to view the crossing area down below in the valley so that they could call in fire when the main force, a day later, was to come into the valley. So in 100 degree heat, all of these guys carrying packs of 70 plus pounds, climbing mostly at night, they climbed Hill 2610.
It took them two days to climb that. Now as an aside to that, the night before they left to make this climb, I got a call very early in the morning, got me out of bed. Get out of bed, I answered the phone, said hello, and I heard, Hi Pop, Happy Father's Day.
And I was like shocked that he would call me to wish me a Happy Father's Day. And at the end of that conversation, he said, Dad, I gotta go, we're leaving on a mission. And that's when they left to climb that mountain. It was hot, they were out of food, they were out of water, and the army had made provisions to have an air drop for them at the same time they were going into the valley so that the helicopter dropping their provisions wouldn't be noticed. However, because one helicopter was down, needed repairs, the army decided to postpone the attack into the valley for two days, which left the guys at the top without food and water. And the army then decided to send in their supply helicopter anyway. The helicopter came in, it missed the drop point, and dropped the stuff way too near them, marking their position.
As the sun was setting on that day, they heard noises in the woods that surrounded this plateau, about half the size of a football field. And at that point, all hell broke loose. Small arms fire, machine guns, RPGs, started raining in on their position so badly that these guys couldn't pop their head up. One of them got his rifle shot out of his hands, another one was shot in the wrist and in the back. The trees surrounding them had no branches left on them, and Private Bradbury and another soldier who had been kind of at the point, they were in danger of being overrun. And so they decided to run back to the opposite end where there were some rocks they could hide behind. The one soldier made it, but Bradbury was hit, and he was down.
You know, it's like being in the middle of a football field or a baseball field, totally devoid of any cover whatsoever, no rocks, no trees. And the enemy was still fighting at them. Jared called in for artillery, mortars, air support, danger close, which I think people understand that means the bombs are going to be dropping so close to you that if you're not down, the chances are you're going to be killed as well as the enemy. And after calling in the coordinates, that's when Jared handed off the radio to someone else, and that's when he tightened his chin strap, and Chris Cunningham had said, I'm going out to get Bradbury.
Jared answered him back and said, no, he's my boy, I'm going to get him. When we come back, more of the remarkable story of Jared and Paul Monti as told by the father about a fallen son here on Our American Stories. And we return to Our American Stories and the story of Sergeant First Class Jared Monti. When we last left off, Jared was surrounded by a group of 50 insurgents, outmanned and outgunned. And to add to the situation, a fellow soldier, Brian J. Bradbury, was down and exposed to enemy fire.
Jared decided he would expose himself to in order to save his private. Let's return to the story. He ran out to get Bradbury, and he was driven back by the heavy enemy fire.
There were at least 50 Taliban firing at them. And then he tried a second time and was driven back a second time. And, you know, not being able to give up and wanting to do the right thing, out he went the third time. That's when he was killed.
And that's, that's what led up to him receiving the Medal of Honor. I haven't gotten through it. The next month will be 15 years, and I'm still stuck in it. No one should lose a child. It's just a matter of time. I haven't gotten through it.
The next month will be 15 years, and I'm still stuck in it. No one should lose a child. It's not supposed to happen that way.
It's, you know, the parents go first and the children grieve for them. I'll never forget that night, 9.45 p.m. I'm sitting watching America's Got Talent, and my doorbell rang, and I saw two men come around the side of the house in uniform.
I knew immediately. You know, you answer the door and you get the government response. You know, we need to inform you that, you know, your son was killed in action, and from that moment on, you just, you're off somewhere.
I remember sitting down with them at the dining room table and having a stack of papers shoved in front of me and asked to sign this, sign this, sign this, and you just go through the motions. You don't want to believe what they're saying. You want to think that someone made a mistake. I was so, I was so messed up. I mean, his guys, they couldn't believe what happened. Monty was so revered to them that nothing could ever happen to him. To this day, they have the same feeling.
They all, I don't think any of them have ever gotten over what happened. He wasn't just, you know, their sergeant. He was their friend.
Yeah, I'm your boss and I'm going to, you know, guide you, but I'm going to be your friend. Back in the States, every weekend, he would either be going to someone's house to help them put in a floor, or he was having a barbecue for them, or if there was a celebration for one of their children, he would be there. He took care of them as if they were, and indeed they were, his brothers. That's where my pride comes in, that he was such a good human being that I wonder if I'm even worthy to be called his father.
It's really very, very difficult to understand that a person like this is related to you, never mind being your own son. I wasn't even expecting the truck. When they delivered all his stuff from his apartment in New York, the last thing that came off was his truck, and I was like, wow. There was an empty bottle. Well, it wasn't quite empty on the floorboards. He liked his char, so he always had a bottle with him to spit into.
That was in there. He had toothpaste in there. He had mouthwash. He had a toothbrush. He had a little container of coins. He had, oh Lord, just a guy's truck.
It's pretty much the same even now, 15 years later, as it was when he left. I never vacuumed it. It sure needs it, but I just don't want to remove his DNA.
I don't want that sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. So, yeah, it's a little messy, but it's him, and he's with me when I drive it. I don't drive it as much as I used to. It was my everyday vehicle for a while, and then I realized that it had to be preserved.
So, I got another vehicle, but I still make sure I drive his truck whenever I can, at least once a week to get it out and running. Some people have said time heals all wounds. It doesn't.
It absolutely doesn't. I'm 15 years in, and it's almost like it happened yesterday. This is the way it is. The way my life is now, there's a door in front of me with my son's name on it, and I'm expecting to be able to open that door and go and visit him and go to sports games with him and go fishing with him and just have him over my house for a barbecue. To hold his kids, my grandkids, on my lap, that's what I expect when I open that door.
But when I actually reach out and open that door, it's just totally dark inside. There will be no barbecues in the backyard. There will be no Red Sox games.
There will be no fishing trips. There will be no grandkids. I know the Lord works in very mysterious ways, and I know that no matter who you are, when a loved one dies, you always have that question, why God?
But I was actually able to answer that question. The whole thing that came about from my son's death, the fact that we now have a charity that places flags on every grave at the National Cemetery in porn, every Memorial Day and every Veterans Day, now placing 77,000 flags, the fact that we were able to give out $16,000 in scholarship money this year, the effect that Jared's had on so many people, especially young people throughout the entire country, indeed in some cases the world. It seems to me that God looked down and he said, you know, Jared, you're doing a fabulous job on that planet, but if you come up here with me, you'll be able to do even more. And that's what he's been doing since he passed, even more. And a spectacular job by Monty, as always, and my goodness, what a piece of storytelling from Paul Monty. I haven't gotten through it. No one should lose a child.
The parent goes first. He wasn't just their sergeant, he said, he was their friend. He was such a good human being. The story of Jared Monty, the story of Paul Monty, here on Our American Stories. And we return to Our American Stories, and up next, a story from a regular contributor, Ann Claire, about a fight over a pig that almost led to a war.
Take it away, Ann. In spite of its name, the Pig War didn't have much to do with farm animals. Rather, the unfortunate demise of a pig who ventured into the wrong garden in 1859 almost led to an armed conflict, another armed conflict, between Britain and the United States. In the early 1800s, multiple countries had sent explorers to the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. These explorers laid claim to territory in the New World. However, as there weren't markings on property lines, Britain, Spain, Russia, and the fledgling United States all ended up with overlapping claims. Now, by 1819, Spain was out of the running for Pacific Northwest real estate thanks to the Transcontinental Treaty.
President James Monroe's 1823 speech outlining the Monroe Doctrine warned Russia that seeking interest in North America wouldn't be tolerated. But this still left Britain and the United States having to work out their conflicting claims. Both nations had reasons why they felt their claim was more legitimate. On the British side, Captain James Cook had conducted important explorations of the coastal areas of the territory. One of his crew members, George Vancouver, returned and became the first non-native to explore Puget Sound, giving it its name in the process.
The Hudson Bay Company had been active in the area for years, establishing trade and putting down roots. However, the Americans had the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery exploration to point to, and the subsequent setting up of trading posts and forts. A decade before Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific, Thomas Gray, sailing from Boston, had explored and named the Columbia River. This whole idea also of manifest destiny, that the United States not only would expand but was meant to expand to the Pacific, bolstered the voices calling for the Oregon Territory to become officially American Territory. Britain and the United States had already agreed to set their borders from Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains along the 49th parallel. Why not, moderate American voices asked, agree to just keep the same line all the way to the Pacific? This would also conveniently give the United States Puget Sound, which would be America's first good deepwater harbor on the Pacific.
But no, the Hudson Bay Company also recognized the value of Puget Sound. The 49th parallel was too far to the north for their plans. However, by 1843, so many American families had moved west along the Oregon Trail and began settling in the Oregon Territory that they set up a provisional government to keep the territory in order.
Possessions nine-tenths of the law, right? As the debate wore on, some American voices clamored that a border on the 49th parallel wasn't enough land anyway. President James K. Polk won his 1845 election on the slogan, 54-40 or fight. In other words, he called for a border that went up to 54 degrees 40 minutes, which would extend the United States border all the way north to Alaska or thereabouts, or else.
However, once he was in office and by a slim margin of votes, President Polk wasn't really feeling the fight part of his slogan anymore. So the conflict, when it came, was not at the dictates of Washington, D.C. In 1846, Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Oregon in London. This treaty finally positioned the border between the two nations on the 49th parallel from the Rocky Mountains west until it hit the water. Then the line would swing south through the middle of the channel, which separates the continent from Vancouver Island.
So they thought the problem was solved, except that this treaty did not specify which channel the border should pass through when it swung south. Harrow Strait near Vancouver Island or Rosario Strait near the mainland. And the San Juan Islands lay between those two straits. So naturally both Britain and the United States claimed them as their rightful property and began trying to establish their claims through action.
The Hudson Bay Company at Fort Victoria, which was only seven miles from San Juan Island, has set up salmon curing stations on the island. When the United States claimed the island, the HBC upped its game and established the Bellevue sheep farm as well. American settlers, all 18 of them, established their own claims, settling in and building homes right in the middle of the sheep grazing land.
The settlers were confident that the U.S. government would recognize their claims, while the British were equally sure that these new residents were just squatters. Finally, on June 15, 1859, came the incident. An American resident of San Juan Island, Lyman Cutler, found a British company pig in his garden. He shot and killed it.
This didn't go over well. The British authorities threatened to evict all of the Americans from the island except Cutler, whom they wanted to arrest. The Americans dug in their heels and refused to move, but they sent messages to the American authority in the territory, Brigadier General William S. Harney. He sent a company of 64 infantrymen under Captain George E. Pickett, who would later be a well-known name in the American Civil War.
Pickett encamped his men just north of the British sheep farm. Word of the situation reached Vancouver Island and the ears of the British governor, James Douglas. In response, Douglas sent Captain Geoffrey Phippshorn and his 31-gun steam frigate, the HMS Tribune, to San Juan Island. They were ordered to get rid of Pickett without bloodshed, if possible.
The Tribune was soon followed by the HMS Satellite with her 21 guns and the HMS Plumper with her 10, plus 46 Royal Marines and 15 Royal Engineers. Faced with almost one ship gun for each of his men, Pickett still refused to withdraw. He did, however, request reinforcements. In the meantime, the British did not take aggressive action waiting for the commander of the British naval forces in the Pacific, Rear Admiral R. Lambert Baines, to arrive. Now, I don't know anything else about Admiral Baines, but I think his reaction to the situation speaks well of him.
Baines was appalled and advised Douglas that he would not involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig. Now, on the island, Pickett received his reinforcements, 171 men and a replacement commander in the form of Lieutenant Colonel Silas Casey. Casey tried to parley with Baines, but after Baines refused to leave his ship, or maybe it was after seeing the 84 guns on Baines' ship, Casey also sent word asking for more reinforcements. So by the end of the month, 461 Americans were encamped in the woods just north of the sheep farm, and there they waited. And the British also waited, drilling and firing their guns into the island's bluffs.
Now, among all the absurdities of this situation, officers on both sides attended church together on the satellite and socialized. Now, at last, the story of this conflict reached Washington, D.C. and the then-president James Buchanan. He hurriedly dispatched General Winfield Scott, a veteran of the War of 1812 and also a veteran of calming down border disputes. In the end, both parties agreed to withdraw their reinforcements. Britain and the United States would share San Juan Island in a joint occupation until the matter was finally resolved.
The Americans would leave one company of soldiers on the island, and the British would keep one warship in Griffin Bay. Now, this temporary solution worked, though with one thing and another keeping the decision makers occupied, including our Civil War, the temporary solution dragged on for 12 years. In 1871, Britain and the United States agreed to let Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany arbitrate their dispute.
He gave the project to a three-man commission who met on the subject in Geneva for nearly a year. They ruled in favor of the United States. This set the final boundary between the U.S. and British, now Canadian, territory. And so, the Pig War ended, a war in which the only casualty was a pig and in which diplomacy finally triumphed. And a terrific job on the production by Monty Montgomery and a special thanks to Ann Clare for telling us what is a seemingly humorous but important point to make about border disputes and how they change and borders have been battled over for centuries over big and small things, even a pig. And by the way, if you have stories, history stories yourself, send them to OurAmericanStories.com. So many of you are actually closet historians or are actually history teachers. Send them in and send them to OurAmericanStories.com, the story of a battle over a pig that almost led to a war, here on Our American Stories.
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