It’s just a typical day, with a typical news cycle. We have a plethora of opinions shrouded as facts, dozens of stories based upon self-serving manipulated statistics and a healthy dose of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) served up by ratings-starved news organizations.
The hottest trending topics this week included Joe Wilson’s rude and inexcusable outburst, Kanye West’s drunken, rude and inexcusable outburst, Serena Williams, self-defeating, rude and inexcusable outburst and several other virtually meaningless OMG moments that diverted us from things we really should be paying attention to. As I am writing this, the trending topics on Twitter include Jay-Z, Andy Richter and a bunch of TV shows like Survivor and Bones.
I was hoping that one other name or hashtag would become a trending topic today. It didn’t. I checked everywhere Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Google, YouTube, all the social bookmarking sites. It wasn’t on the radar. Jim Miklaszewski covered it for NBC Nightly News, but Brian didn’t mention it in the opening tease, nor the first bumper. No promos, no hype, no setup, just a story you’d miss if you weren’t paying attention. It did get a little coverage on some of the cable news networks, but it will be out of the news cycle completely by Friday, replaced by trending topics and new celebrity outbursts that divert us from things we really should be paying attention to.
I want to introduce you to someone. His name was Staff Sergeant Jared C. Monti. On Thursday, September 17, 2009, The President of the United States posthumously presented him with The Medal of Honor, our nation's highest medal for valor in combat.
During his remarks, President Obama said, "Duty. Honor. Country. Service. Sacrifice. Heroism. These are words of weight. But as people — as a people and as a culture, we often invoke them lightly. We toss them around freely. But do we really grasp the meaning of these values? Do we truly understand the nature of these virtues? To serve, and to sacrifice. Jared Monti knew. The Monti family knows. And they know that the actions we honor today were not a passing moment of courage. They were the culmination of a life of character and commitment."
When you are finished reading this, I'd like you to consider putting out news updates on all of your social media profiles. The URL is http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/monti/index.html. Here's a bit.ly http://bit.ly/2We4na Use the hashtag #sfcMonti. I want you decide whether this story is newsworthy or not. If you think it is, you have the power to tell everyone you know about this remarkable young man.
I would ask you to help remember, honor and fight for him as he remembered, honored and fought for us. I don't mean metaphorically. I mean, take action. Make him famous. Laud his heroism and hold him up as an example of what it means to be a man of admirable character and an enduring example of true American values.
We are the media, we (all of us) decide what is worthy of our attention. How is it possible that a drunken outburst from a rapper, a temper tantrum from a tennis player or even an emotional outburst from a congressman is more worthy of attention than a ceremony honoring a man who gave his life for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty?"
The question is obviously rhetorical and I know the answer as well as you do. But I'd like to think that as the media business transforms into a hybrid realtime network with atomized communities of interest, trusted brands, self-assembled trust circles and other social networking components, we (as a collective group) can strive for a higher level of discourse.
Although I never met SFC Monti, I am proud of him. I am in awe of his actions and I know you will be too. Together we will mourn his death and through his actions, we will have learned what it means to be a true American hero.
Here is an excerpt from President Obama's remarks:
It was June 21st, 2006, in the remotest northeast of Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. Sergeant Monti was a team leader on a 16-man patrol. They’d been on the move for three days — down dirt roads; sloshing through rivers; hiking up steep mountain trails, their heavy gear on their backs; moving at night and in the early morning to avoid the scorching 100-degree heat. Their mission: to keep watch on the valley down below in advance of an operation to clear the area of militants.
Those who were there remember that evening on the mountain — a rocky ridge, not much bigger than this room. Some were standing guard, knowing they had been spotted by a man in the valley. Some were passing out MREs and water. There was talk of home and plans for leave. Jared was overheard remembering his time serving in Korea. Then, just before dark, there was a shuffle of feet in the woods. And that’s when the treeline exploded in a wall of fire.
One member of the patrol said it was “like thousands of rifles crackling.” 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. Within minutes, one soldier was killed; another was wounded. Everyone dove for cover. Behind a tree. A rock. A stone wall. This patrol of 16 men was facing a force of some 50 fighters. Outnumbered, the risk was real. They might be overrun. They might not make it out alive.
That’s when Jared Monti did what he was trained to do. With the enemy advancing — so close they could hear their voices — he got on his radio and started calling in artillery. When the enemy tried to flank them, he grabbed a gun and drove them back. And when they came back again, he tossed a grenade and drove them back again. And when these American soldiers saw one of their own — wounded, lying in the open, some 20 yards away, exposed to the approaching enemy — Jared Monti did something no amount of training can instill. His patrol leader said he’d go, but Jared said, “No, he is my soldier, I’m going to get him.”
It was written long ago that “the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet, notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” Jared Monti saw the danger before him. And he went out to meet it.
He handed off his radio. He tightened his chin strap. And with his men providing cover, Jared rose and started to run. Into all those incoming bullets. Into all those rockets. Upon seeing Jared, the enemy in the woods unleashed a firestorm. He moved low and fast, yard after yard, then dove behind a stone wall.
A moment later, he rose again. And again they fired everything they had at him, forcing him back. Faced with overwhelming enemy fire, Jared could have stayed where he was, behind that wall. But that was not the kind of soldier Jared Monti was. He embodied that creed all soldiers strive to meet: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.” And so, for a third time, he rose. For a third time, he ran toward his fallen comrade. Said his patrol leader, it “was the bravest thing I had ever seen a soldier do.”
They say it was a rocket-propelled grenade; that Jared made it within a few yards of his wounded soldier. They say that his final words, there on that ridge far from home, were of his faith and his family: “I’ve made peace with God. Tell my family that I love them.”