WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Thursday praised a U.S. soldier who three times left cover for an attempted rescue while Taliban bullets and grenades rained around him, ultimately losing his own life while trying to save his comrade on an Afghan battlefield.
Presenting his first Medal of Honor, Obama lavished praise on Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti from Raynham, Mass., who was leading a scouting mission along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan when a helicopter deployed to resupply the patrol blew their cover. Taliban fighters converged, and Monti called for backup.
With vivid details, Obama, standing just feet from Monti's parents, told the story of 16 soldiers who were surrounded and outnumbered by insurgents yet kept their position.
"Bullets and heavy machine gunfire ricocheting across the rocks. Rocket-propelled grenades raining down. Fire so intense that weapons were shot right out of their hands," Obama said, explaining the battle to a packed audience at the White House. "Within minutes, one soldier was killed, another was wounded. Everyone dove for cover, behind a tree, a rock, a stone wall."
One of Monti's men, Pvt. Brian Bradbury of St. Joseph, Mo., was shot during the encounter. Monti, who enlisted at age 17, twice left cover and ran into the open under enemy fire to retrieve him. On Monti's third attempt, he was struck by a grenade and died on the field.
Monti previously was awarded a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, five Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals and three National Defense Service Medals.