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Remembering the Gold Star Father Whose Story Inspired the Hit Country Song "I Drive Your Truck"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 29, 2024 3:01 am

Remembering the Gold Star Father Whose Story Inspired the Hit Country Song "I Drive Your Truck"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 29, 2024 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Paul Monti was able to keep - and drive - a meaningful memorial of his son Jared, who was killed in action defending his comrades. Hear the true experiences that became a powerful song.

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This is World of Secrets, season one, the Abercrombie guys. Listen wherever you get your podcasts. Our big podcast network, our hard radio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Presented by AT&T.

Connecting changes everything. And we continue with our American stories. Up next, a story about a song.

Lee Brice's I Drive Your Truck. It's a day Paul Monti never forgot. The day he got the news military parents dread. His 30-year-old son, US Army Sergeant First Class Jared Monti, had been killed while serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan.

Paul, a recently retired teacher from Raina, Massachusetts, instantly joined the ranks of Gold Star parents in 2006. Paul didn't know what to do or say when he got the news, let alone how to process his grief. A few months later, on his first Veterans Day visit to his son's grave site at the 780-acre Massachusetts National Cemetery, he noticed something odd. There wasn't a flag on display at any of the 78,000 graves in the cemetery.

Not one. The flags weren't there, Paul learned, because ground crews complained they made it harder for them to cut the cemetery grass. Not pleased with that explanation, Paul did what any Gold Star dad or mom would do. He fought the Department of Veterans Affairs until the rule was changed.

But this Gold Star dad's mission was only partially complete. He then launched Operation Flags for Vets, an organization dedicated to placing flags on every grave at the Massachusetts National Cemetery, every memorial, and Veterans Day. All to preserve the memory of the sacrifices that so many in that cemetery made for their country, including his son.

During the first Flags for Veterans ceremony, on Memorial Day in 2011, Paul's vision became a reality as an army of volunteers spread out across the massive military cemetery and adorned 62,000 graves with flags. Here's what Paul told the assembled crowd. Paul was later interviewed that day by NPR, fighting back tears as he told a story about a new kitchen set Jared and his army pals purchased for their home only to give it away. One day his buddies came home and the kitchen set was missing. They asked him where it was and Jared said, Well, I was over at one of my soldier's houses and his kids were eating on the floor. So I figured they needed the kitchen set more than we did. And so the $700 kitchen set, well, it just disappeared.

That's what Jared did. His father described his son as a man who didn't crave attention. All his medals went in a sock drawer. No one ever saw him. He didn't want to stand out.

In 2009, his son posthumously received the highest commendation any American soldier can be awarded, the Congressional Medal of Honor. But the most powerful part of Paul's story revolved around Jared's truck, why he didn't sell it and why he still drove it. What can I tell you? It's him. It's got his DNA all over it. I love driving it because it reminds me of him, though I don't need the truck to remind me of him.

I think about him every hour of every day. Paul shared details of his son's Dodge 4x4 Ram 1500 truck adorned with decals, including the 10th Mountain Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, an American flag, and a GO Army decal. Then came the most emotional part of the interview. You know, I think it's important for people to understand what Gold Star parents go through. Your child is your future, and when you lose your child, you've lost your future. And I think one of the reasons so many Gold Star parents drive their children's trucks is because they have to hold on.

They just have to hold on. I'll never forget that interview because I was listening to it on a sunny Memorial Day in a Walmart parking lot in my own hometown, unable to get out of my SUV because I was crying so hard, crying like I used to cry when I was a child, crying as if I'd just lost my child. I wasn't the only one sitting alone in my car crying that Memorial Day back in 2011. Nashville songwriter Connie Harrington was in her car listening to the same story. Moved to tears, she did what writers do.

She pulled over and scribbled down details of the story so she wouldn't forget them. When she got back home, one part of Paul's story kept crying out to her, the story of that truck. With the help of two songwriter friends, Harrington turned that part of the Monty story and all of that emotion into a song, which country singer Lee Brice recorded. I Drive Your Truck made its way quickly to number one on Billboard's country charts.

The video has 50 million views and counting. But as remarkable as this story was, it didn't end there. Not long after Brice's song became a hit, Paul was contacted by a woman he knew who had lost her son in the same battle that took his son's life. He sent me a message that she'd heard the song and that I had to listen to it.

She knew I drove Jared's truck and she drove her son's truck. He confessed he was unable to make it through the whole song. I'd got into it just a few bars and I kind of, well, I just kind of welled up. What Paul didn't know was that it was his story that inspired the song. The writers eventually tracked him down to celebrate the song's success. It won the Country Music Association's Award for Song of the Year in 2013. The song did what country music does best. Tell sad, beautiful stories.

Here's the opening verse and chorus. Eighty-nine cents in the ashtray Half empty bottle of Gatorade rolling in the floorboard That dirty Braves cap on the dash Dog tags hanging from the rear view Old Skokan and cowboy boots and a gold Army shirt Folded in the back This thing burns gas like crazy But that's alright People got their ways coping Oh, and I got mine I drive your truck I roll every window down and I burn up Every back road in this town I find a field I tear it up till all the pain's a cloud of dust Yeah, sometimes I drive your truck What we don't learn from the song were the circumstances of his son's death. In June of 2006, Jared's patrol came under fire and one soldier who served under him was wounded and needed help. Despite a wicked firefight, Jared tried three times to help his fallen comrade.

It was that last attempt that got him killed. No one who knew Jared was surprised. Here's his father.

It's what he did. Jared didn't give up on people and always he tried to do the right thing. What led Jared to become the man he was?

One need not look far to figure it out. His father, it turns out, had the same passion for serving others, for doing the right thing and for doing hard things. Paul Monty recently died at the age of 76 from cancer in Raynham. He learned from local media reports that he taught earth sciences at Stoughton High School for 35 years and rarely talked about himself. He was too busy taking care of the people around him. Paul's daughter Nicole told reporters her dad, one of nine kids growing up, worked hard throughout his life. He delivered newspapers and worked all kinds of odd jobs growing up and worked two and sometimes three jobs to support his family.

He didn't complain about it or take credit for it. It was simply who he was. On the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes website and Facebook page, his friends and colleagues wrote these words about him. Paul relentlessly pursued a life of helping others, being a role model and leading by example.

He's left us to join his son Jared in heaven. It's a sublime final image of two lives beautifully lived and God's just reward for doing so. It's why the story of Paul and Jared Monty is one for the ages. It's proof that fathers matter in the lives of their sons and daughters and the life of their communities too.

And proof that, as the saying goes, it's better to live a sermon than to give one. The story of I Drive Your Truck, the story of Paul and Jared Monty and the Gold Star mothers and fathers who were left behind here on Our American Stories. An October morning in a quiet suburb in a town in Scotland, a man is walking his dog when suddenly... Shots are fired from a car.

The man falls to the ground and the car speeds off. An ordinary residential area, but extraordinary things happen in ordinary places. The instant right away was it was a political thing.

We're talking about Russian-trained high-ranking officer in a secret service. An Assassin Comes to Town, a six-part podcast. Available now, wherever you get your podcasts.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-29 04:44:40 / 2024-05-29 04:49:21 / 5

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