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Massena pauses to remember those who fought for freedom

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MASSENA - A Massena native and brigade commander at Fort Bragg, N.C. brought the war in Afghanistan down to a personal level during his Memorial Day speech Monday in Massena.

Col. Christopher Sharpsten, who currently commands the 82nd Sustainment Brigade, reflected on the heroics displayed by Sgt. 1st Class Jared Christopher Monti, a Fort Drum soldier, during both his time at Fort Drum and while deployed in Afghanistan, where he lost his life trying to save a fellow soldier.

Prior to his deployment to Afghanistan, Sgt. Monti lived with a roommate in an off-base apartment in Watertown, according to Col. Sharpsten.

He said Sgt. Monti and his roommate both chipped in and purchased a $500 dining room set. One day the roommate came home and the dining room set was gone.

“He said, ‘Jared, where’s the kitchen set?’” Col. Sharpsten, a 1988 West Point graduate, said.

Sgt. Monti replied that he had been at the home of one of his soldiers, and they were eating their meals off the floor.

“They needed it more than we did,” he told his roommate.

“He cared more for others than he did himself,” Col. Sharpsten said.

In 2006, Sgt. Monti’s unit was charged with a leading a mission while deployed in Afghanistan, and one day their 16-man patrol came under attack by the Taliban.

Sgt. Monti called for reinforcing fire during the attack.

“He accurately targeted artillery rounds on the enemy,” according to the colonel, who said Sgt. Monti also “personally engaged the enemy with his rifle and grenades.”

But he discovered one of his soldiers had been badly wounded was unable to move and was under fire. Another soldier volunteered to try and save him, but Sgt. Monti would have none of it, instead choosing to risk his own life.

“He needed to recover his fallen comrade,” Col. Sharpsten said.

He attempted to move out of concealment twice and, on the third attempt “he was mortally wounded and knew he was dying,” he said.

“He cared for his soldiers. He sacrificed his life to save a fellow soldier,” Col. Sharpsten said. “He’s just one example of the American veterans we’ve come to honor today.”

He noted that Sgt. Monti also left a family behind and asked the crowd at Veteran’s Memorial Park to remember them as well.

“Today we recognize those who bravely stepped forward but never returned. We owe them a debt we can never repay,” he said.

As he looked out at the faces in the park on Monday, Col. Sharpsten said he was glad to see them paying tribute to the men and women who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s rewarding to see a crowd like this come out for Memorial Day. Let’s do what we came here to do, which is to honor those who have fallen. They served our nation in the greatest military this world has ever seen. Our nation owes a great debt to these men and women,” he said, noting they were not seeking fame in the process. Their country called and they responded.”

He suggested that those who attended the Memorial Day ceremony honor those who had given their lives for their country.

“You can thank those heroes by taking full advantage of your rights as an American citizen,” he said, whether it is serving on jury duty, volunteering to become a firefighter or mentoring a child.

“If you live to be a good American, all veterans will be proud to know that their sacrifice was not in vein,” Col. Sharpsten said.

He noted that there were 25 million veterans, and he asked those at the park to stand and be acknowledged.

“Give them a round of applause for everything they’ve done for our country,” he said. “Our military is the best because it is comprised of ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things.”

American Legion Post 79 Commander Ed Hamel, who served as the master of ceremonies, also thanked the crowd for attending. Many of them had either participated in a parade prior to the ceremony or stood on Main Street and applauded the veterans as they passed by on their way to Veterans Memorial Park.

“The veterans would like to thank you for attending our joint memorial service. It’s a very good crowd. We appreciate that,” he said.

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