Odiase is one of two valedictorians at Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee.
As Paul Monti has said to me several times, “it’s not about Jared.” Jared was Paul’s son. He was killed in Afghanistan on June 21, 2006, when his 10th Mountain Division unit was ambushed by insurgents.
For his bravery on that day Jared Monti was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Since then Paul Monti, who lives in Raynham, Mass., has used Jared’s story to highlight the service and sacrifice of others — those who came home and those, like Jared, who did not.
You may have heard this story on NPR’s All Things Considered last night. It’s about a country song inspired by a conversation I had with Paul Monti two days before Memorial Day in 2011 (music video below).
We were standing beside Jared’s old truck at the Massachusetts National Cemetery on Cape Cod. Paul had organized an event called Operation Flags For Vets. Thousands of volunteers came to place American flags on all of the 56,000 graves there, including Jared’s.
Paul still drives Jared’s truck. If you were to look inside the cab or into the bed, it looks still like your college dorm room on Saturday morning.
But as Paul Monti says, this isn’t about Jared. On June 21, 2006, when the insurgents attacked, the American soldiers were outnumbered 4-to-1.
Monti took cover and used the radio to call in air support. But one of his friends, Brian J. Bradbury, was critically wounded in the firefight and had fallen in an open spot, exposed to enemy fire.
Three times Monti scurried from the position where he had taken cover. On the third trip, a rocket-propelled grenade killed him.
The air support he had called for arrived just after that and broke the enemy assault. Monti’s unit was saved. His family received his Medal of Honor at the White House on Sept. 17, 2006.
What happened to Brian J. Bradbury? He was pulled to safety, but he also died when the cable being used to hoist him up to a helicopter ambulance snapped and he plunged to the ground.
So in a couple of weeks when Paul Monti places an American flag on his son’s grave at the Massachusetts National Cemetery for Memorial Day, he will also be thinking about Brian Bradbury and the others who died on that mountain in Afghanistan seven years ago.
Maybe later, he might be humming that song.
Alex Ashlock is a Here & Now producer and director of the show.