By on May 27, 2013

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A couple of years ago on Memorial Day, songwriter Connie Harrington was driving her car, listening to NPR on the radio. On the air, Paul Monti was talking about his son Sgt. Jared Monti, who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously. Sgt. Monti, 30, was killed in battle in Afghanistan while trying to save the life of one of the men under his command, the third time in that firefight that he’d responded to calls for help. As the father described how he coped with his grief, Harrington pulled over and jotted down notes, particularly touched by the fact that Paul Monti still drives Jared’s 2001 Dodge pickup truck as both a memorial to his son and as a salve to that grief. It’s a four-wheel drive Ram 1500, a little beaten up, embellished with decals for the 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne divisions, a Go Army sticker and an American flag.

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“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.”

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When she got home in Nashville, Harrington started working on a song, first by herself and then with two co-writers, Jessi  Alexander and Jimmy Yeary. The result, I Drive Your Truck, was recorded by country singer Lee Brice. Last month the song went to #1 on Billboard’s C&W chart and so far Brice’s video of the tune on YouTube has been viewed over 5 million times (though Jared’s pickup is a Dodge, Brice’s video uses an older Ford F-100). I’ve always regarded the stories of Shelby Mustangs left in barns by young men off to Vietnam, never to return, as the stuff of legends, but I suppose that there have been such genuinely true stories since young men have driven cars before going off to war, so the song rings true. Some of those men came home alive, some didn’t. Somewhere there’s bound to be a 1916 Model T left behind by one of Gen. Pershing’s doughboys, hopefully being driven by someone who knows its story, not abandoned in a barn with its owner forgotten.

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After the song was released and started getting radio airplay, Paul Monti was contacted on Facebook by the mother of another soldier killed in the same Afghanistan battle as his son. She too was driving her fallen son’s pickup truck and urged him to listen to I Drive Your Truck. The song is written from the perspective of a surviving brother, not a father, so neither on them realized the song was really about Monti, his son Jared and that Ram 1500. Paul tried to listen to the song but overcome with tears he couldn’t make it all the way through.

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In a more recent interview with Monti on NPR, the CMoH winner’s father said, “You know, I think it’s important for people to understand — or at least try 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.”

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After some searching, Harrington was able to locate Monti. She told him that he and his son inspired the song and when the song hit #1 she invited him to Nashville to meet her and her co-writers and learn the genesis of I Drive Your Truck. While the truck, and now the song, no doubt help Monti deal with the death of his son, if you’ve ever had any contact with a parent who has lost a child you know that’s a pain that never completely goes away. In the case of Sgt. Jared Monti, though, his father has the comfort of knowing that his son was a good man who died the way he lived, helping others.

Paul Monti with his son Jared's pickup truck. Photo: John Wilcox, Boston Herald

Paul Monti with his son Jared’s pickup truck. Photo: John Wilcox, Boston Herald

Sgt. Jared Monti, according to his father and others, was the kind of son most of us would like to have, altruistic to the literal end. It’s a cruel irony that the best of us will sacrifice themselves to save others. When he was killed in 2006, Jared Monti’s 16 man patrol came under fire from a superior force of approximately 50 Taliban fighters. Monti was the commanding officer of the patrol. During the firefight, one of his soldiers was wounded and out in the open. Monti was mortally wounded in his third attempt to recover his wounded comrade under what his Medal of Honor citation describes as “intense” and “relentless” enemy fire.  The citation says that, “Staff Sergeant Monti’s selfless acts of heroism inspired his patrol to fight off the larger enemy force.” What the citation doesn’t say is what we already know, he loved his truck. So does his dad.

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Sergeant Monti’s full Congressional Medal of Honor citation is below as are the lyrics to I Drive Your Truck.  If you follow that link, take a few moments to read some of the other citations and reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day. Since the start of World War Two, most Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously. Sometimes, like Sgt. Monti, the awardees’ self-sacrifice earned them the medal. In other cases they gave their last full measure of devotion in subsequent action, not even related to the valorous behavior that earned them the Medal of Honor. Of course, most men who die in battle don’t get the Medal of Honor. That’s what war is like, it’s a risky proposition at best and heroes don’t fight for medals. On Memorial Day in America we honor the memory of Sgt. Jared Monti and the rest of those who have taken that risk so that we can enjoy our pickup trucks and other pursuits of our happiness. That’s not a glib comment. What could be more American than a pickup truck? Hell, even Toyota and Nissan build American pickups for Americans these days.

I don’t listen to much Country music and didn’t know about the song, so thanks to Lee Habeeb for writing so eloquently about it, Paul Monti, and his son Jared’s truck. The Monti family lives in Massachussets and there’s more about them, the song and Sgt. Monti’s pickup truck at the Boston Herald.

[I was going to embed a video from the Boston Herald here but it autostarts with a 30 second advertisement and after the 3rd or 4th time it autostarted with an ad while I was editing this post, I decided that you'd rather just have direct link to the video and decide if you want to watch the ad or not]

If you have fond feelings for a father’s love for his son, for America, for its people and even for its pickup trucks, you’ll have a hard time getting through the story of Sgt. Jared Monti without tearing up. It’s a great story that resonates at a number of levels, so I’m a bit surprised that the folks at Chrysler haven’t seized the opportunity to generate a little feelgood patriotic buzz for the Ram brand, what with Chryslers being imported from Detroit, the Arsenal of Democracy. Maybe they’re reluctant because of that Ford F-100 in Lee Brice’s music video. I’ll just point out to the Ram brand managers and marketing team that Mr. Monti’s memorial to his son is still used as a daily driver and though he clearly loves it as an artifact of his late son I’m sure that as a memorial it would last quite a bit longer if he had a new truck to use regularly instead. He’s already had to replace the engine. It probably wouldn’t hurt the Ram brand if they gave Mr. Monti a new 4X4 Ram 1500 truck to use as a daily driver so that he can preserve his son’s Ram the way it was when Jared drove it. While they’re at it, donating a similar  truck to a American veterans service organization in memory of Sgt Monti would likewise be a nice patriotic move for the Auburn Hills based (and now Italian owned) company. If I was in a cynical mood, I’d even suggest to the folks at Ram that they should license the song and reshoot the music video as a commercial, using Mr. Monti and Jared’s truck instead of that F-100 (if Ford could turn a Mercury hot rod  into a Ford pickup, Chrysler can turn a F-100 into a Ram). They could even tie it in to their military training and employment program, part of the Chrysler Academy. That was, as I said, if I was in a cynical mood, but right now, if you’ll excuse me, I have something in my eye.

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Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti

  • Date of Issue: 09/17/2009
  • Organization: U.S. Army, Headquarters Company, 10th Mountain Division

Citation: Staff Sergeant Jared C. Monti distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a team leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3d Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3d Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, on June 21, 2006. While Staff Sergeant Monti was leading a mission aimed at gathering intelligence and directing fire against the enemy, his 16-man patrol was attacked by as many as 50 enemy fighters. On the verge of being overrun, Staff Sergeant Monti quickly directed his men to set up a defensive position behind a rock formation. He then called for indirect fire support, accurately targeting the rounds upon the enemy who had closed to within 50 meters of his position. While still directing fire, Staff Sergeant Monti personally engaged the enemy with his rifle and a grenade, successfully disrupting an attempt to flank his patrol. Staff Sergeant Monti then realized that one of his Soldiers was lying wounded in the open ground between the advancing enemy and the patrol’s position. With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Monti twice attempted to move from behind the cover of the rocks into the face of relentless enemy fire to rescue his fallen comrade. Determined not to leave his Soldier, Staff Sergeant Monti made a third attempt to cross open terrain through intense enemy fire. On this final attempt, he was mortally wounded, sacrificing his own life in an effort to save his fellow Soldier. Staff Sergeant Monti’s selfless acts of heroism inspired his patrol to fight off the larger enemy force. Staff Sergeant Monti’s immeasurable courage and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and the United States Army.

 

“I Drive Your Truck”

by Connie Harrington, Jessi Alexander and Jimmy Yeary

Eighty-Nine Cents in the ash tray
Half empty bottle of Gatorade rolling in the floorboard
That dirty Braves cap on the dash
Dog tags hangin’ from the rear view
Old Skoal can, and cowboy boots and a Go Army Shirt folded in the back
This thing burns gas like crazy, but that’s alright
People got their ways of coping
Oh, and I’ve 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
Til all the pain’s a cloud of dust
Yeah, sometimes I drive your truck

I leave that radio playing
That same ole country station where ya left it
Yeah, man I crank it up
And you’d probably punch my arm right now
If you saw this tear rollin’ down on my face
Hey, man I’m tryin’ to be tough
And momma asked me this morning
If I’d been by your grave
But that flag and stone ain’t where I feel you anyway

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
Til all the pain’s a cloud of dust
Yeah, sometimes I drive your truck

I’ve cussed, I’ve prayed, I’ve said goodbye
Shook my fist and asked God why
These days when I’m missing you this much

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
Til all the pain’s a cloud of dust
Yeah, sometimes, brother sometimes

I drive your truck
I drive your truck
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind
I drive your truck

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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22 Comments on “For Memorial Day: A Father and His Son’s Pickup Truck...”


  • avatar
    Summicron

    How many of these hyper patriotic country stars ever signed themselves up to go get shot at? A brief google indicates pretty damn few, and Brice isn’t one of them.

    Why the early 70′s truck? More evocative for the ‘Nam generation than a modern truck? Able to evoke the misty haze of past sacrifice rather than being too disturbingly real and contemporary?

    Another good person killed in the service of Chickenhawks and W’s armored ego. Trust a country label to capitalize with such over-produced dreck.

  • avatar
    Speedster356

    Nice story on a sad subject…

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      It is a nice story. But I can’t help but see the irony of the situation. If everyone who with an ego pickup that “burns gas like crazy” traded them in for a hybrid, we wouldn’t need to import all this oil. And we wouldn’t need to guarantee that oil with bases in Saudi Arabia and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      I am hopeful that one day we won’t need to start so many wars, and that my grandkids will think of Memorial Day as a time to honor the Peace Corps volunteers and First Responders who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        As much as we might like that to be possible, the world beyond our shores disagrees with you. The last time we tried a feel-good foreign policy, it ended with 3000+ dead Americans on the eastern seaboard, remember? Don’t forget why we went to war in Afghanistan in the first place.

        Rather, you should recognize the complexities and the failings of the world in which we live, and the need for rough men standing ready to do violence on your behalf so that you can safely scoot around in your Prius. As for SFC Monti, I’ll do my best to take General Patton’s advice, and thank God that such men lived.

        Your other factual inaccuracies are not worthy of mention on Memorial Day.

        • 0 avatar
          SherbornSean

          Darkwing,
          Just to interject a little truth in your life, I’ll point out the following:

          1. Al Queda attacked on 9/11 to get American soldiers out of Saudi Arabia, which they hold holy. Your favorite coward president Bush obliged them soon afterwards. But ask yourself: why so many troops in the middle east. Is there a certain raw material we are really dependent on?

          2. That presence is why we went to war in Afghanistan

          3. Never driven a Prius

          4. Sorry that the concept of honoring people who work for peace and serve others in times of crisis is so abhorrent to you. I’ll leave you to your fantasies about needing rough men.

          • 0 avatar
            darkwing

            In your eagerness to argue with the stereotypical neocon strawman in your head — apparently in the style of the talking heads you seem to admire — you’ve missed my point entirely.

            Fortunately, thanks to the sacrifice of those we remember on this day, you’re free to spend your day off complaining about inconvenient realities that don’t fit your worldview.

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            I saw a chart recently that seemed to show that, as a percentage, we don’t import an incredible amount of mideast oil these days. I don’t want to quote it as gospel but I was surprised.

            edit – found this from NPR http://www.npr.org/2012/04/11/150444802/where-does-america-get-oil-you-may-be-surprised

            12.9 percent from the gulf. Nothing to sneeze at, but certainly not the end of American civilization as we know it if they turned it off tomorrow. And around 70 percent from within the Americas with well over 50 percent from right here in North America and the biggest supplier being, well, us. With vehicles becoming more efficient, even the giant trucks, and technology continuing to increase domestic output, dare I say that in 10 or so years the Middle East may just be a problem for China rather than us.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          @darkwing

          You mirror my thoughts to the previous ignorant comments. We’d have to return to the 1880s if we ever want our demand for oil to be so remote it will not dictate foreign policy.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Why can’t we honor both. You know honoring one group does not keep one from honoring the other. Regardless of how you feel about the war, SFC Monti committed a truly selfless act and laid down his life). Why does it work you up so that someone, especially his father, wants to remember that act.?

        And you may not agree with the wars. I have been to both and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have some fault with them or have any “What the hell are we doing here” moments. I would also be lying if I said we all join out of purely patriotic motives (go to war or go to jail?). But the fact is that if someone evil rose up and attacked your neighborhood tomorrow as you are running away there are some of us that would be running in. And that has to be worth something.

        I don’t agree with every aspect of our Military and I have been serving in it for 16 plus years. But if you think we can disband the Army and everyone will just play nice, you are just wrong.

  • avatar
    arj9084

    Great post.

    Minor note; MOH recipient, not winner.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Very touching. I still have a very hard time dealing with the death of my mother (still have the car she gave me 13 years ago) so I can’t even imagine what the loss of a kid would be like. Yesterday I was talking about Memorial Day with my father, an 85 year old veteran of the Forgotten War. He mentioned to me how it used to be that most in Congress were Vets and how few members are Vets today. He felt that people in government today were too willing to exercise the military option because most of the people in power now are too far removed from it to understand the weight of the decisions that they make. He did not go so far as to say they were cavalier about it but, without the first hand experience it was easier for them. I added that perhaps a universal draft so that everybody serves their country for two years would be a good thing. I did not go to the military and had no interest at the time but looking back I think that everyone should serve and that I and my country would have benefited.

    Regarding Chrysler giving Mr. Monti a new truck, well he might appreciate it, but it is not his son’s truck. That emotional connection can’t be transfused into another vehicle. It just does not work that way. If my first car gets destroyed I am not going to hunt for another to replace it. The replacement does not carry the good memories and all the things that made it mine. For Mr. Monti, his son’s essence is part of the core of the Dodge. That can’t be transferred. Illogical, maybe. But true.

  • avatar
    dgodshal

    Great article. Thank you to all our boys (and my father) for serving! The link to “turn a Mercury hot rod into a Ford pickup” must be wrong; it goes to an article about a hit-and-run in China.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Just a little reminder to those who believe that NPR is nothing but a left-wing liberal waste of your tax dollars.

    • 0 avatar
      darkwing

      It’s easy to memorialize a dead soldier, particularly a notably heroic one. Now, when NPR stops treating living veterans as time-bombs of violence just waiting to go off, then you may have a point.

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    Haters just gotta hate. What miserable little scumbags.

  • avatar
    Pan

    Great story.
    A Parent’s Love transcends all.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    The bravest of the brave sent to die by the most foolish of the fools.

    Every single person in uniform gets my utmost of respect especially on this day of the year. Every single DC weasel in a lobbyist funded suit gets nothing but my utter disdain every day of the year.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Climb to Glory!

  • avatar
    Good ole dayz

    I like the idea of Chrysler giving a new pickup to the father — with no publicity, just to do it because it would be a decent and honorable thing to do. But absolutely hate the idea of Chrysler making a commercial or otherwise using this loss, and the song about it, as a marketing opportunity.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    A Parent outliving a Child for any reason , is a travesty .

    I miss all those I knew who didn’t come home or who have gone not to return .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Never waste an opportunity to turn a touching moment into a political diatribe. Concur that haters just have to hate. While you are waxing eloquently with your r/l wing of choice talking points I should point out that politicians have been scumbags for a long time. Clinton was the first president of my life to have not been involved in WW2. I think the difference now is that none of those in power have ever put it all on the line. I can see the reasons not to do it this way but somehow think that all presidents should have been in harms way before they are empowered to send others there.

    Nice story Ronnie. Felt pretty good about it until the commentariat started hacking it up.


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