The Father of Army Sgt. First Class Jared C. Monti, Medal of Honor recipient, worked hard to make sure that flags would fly on the graves of all the graves of veterans buried at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, MA to honor his son and all who served.
Bravo Zulu to you Mr. Monti and to all who served. This shows one man can make a difference. That was evident by his son's actions and by the Father who raised him to be a great Soldier. Those who have served from Massachusetts have done much to defend our great nation and this is one more example of what we celebrate on Veterans Day.
Flags now fly for soldiers at Massachusetts National Cemetery
By Amy Carboneau
Nov 11, 2011
RAYNHAM — It was mostly barren. Just a field of grass and foot stones to mark the graves – easier to maintain that way, he had been told.
On that Veterans Day in 2006, not one flag stood among the 54,000 graves at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, where Paul Monti’s son, a Medal of Honor recipient, had been buried just months before.
Not one, said Monti of Raynham.
“They said they weren’t allowed,” Monti said. “So I set out to change the policy.”
This year, five years since he began his fight, Monti fulfilled his promise to his son.
On this Veterans Day, every gravestone has a flag beside it.
“My son was a consummate soldier. He loved soldiers. And this would have been something that made him angry, and knowing him, he would’ve done something about it,” Monti said in an interview at his home on Wednesday.
His son, Army Sgt. First Class Jared Monti died trying to save a fellow soldier in Afghanistan in June 2006. In 2009, he received the Medal of Honor posthumously from President Obama.
Since that Veterans Day in 2006, Monti has fought to change the Bourne cemetery’s policy, which states on its website that flags or flagholders are not permitted on graves at any time.
He talked to anyone who would listen: senators, congressmen, the U.S. secretary of defense.
Monti said it took time, but U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown went to bat for him. Now, flags are allowed during the weeks of Memorial Day and Veterans Day, as long as volunteers place them and pick them up.
It was through Monti’s scholarship group, Flags for Veterans, which gives money to students with ties to the military, that nearly $55,000 was raised – $1 for each flag.
Martha Crowninshield O’Brien, 54, of Bourne, was one of hundreds who joined Monti last Saturday to place the flags throughout the cemetery. It was an event her family had looked forward to since they first helped on Memorial Day, when the flag tradition began.
“There was emotion, but so little sadness,” O’Brien wrote in an email, adding her children were able to share laughs while they visited their grandfather’s grave.
“To the community, it’s very special,” she said. “You feel like you’re protecting them over there, you’re not forgetting them.”
There were 1,500 volunteers who showed up on Memorial Day, and roughly 600 who turned out last Saturday.
“It’s going to wane, like everything else does,” said Monti. “In five years, instead of having 1,000, we’ll be lucky to get 100.”
But he hopes his message gets out to others, and they, too, push their senators to change the policy of cemeteries that ban flags on veterans’ graves.
Aside from this effort, Monti travels and gives speeches to schools and Scout troops throughout Massachusetts and the country. He says it’s important to remind the kids that freedom isn’t free.
It’s a busy schedule. His phone rings off the hook.
On Thursday morning, he spoke at the Raynham Middle School, where the school and parents gathered for the ninth annual Veterans Day Salute. Monti was moved to tears when he received a standing ovation.
He has up to three engagements a day. Monti looks at a calendar covered with random notes on his refrigerator. Monday is blank, and he smiles at his day off.
“This is my life now. We do as much as we can,” he said. “I mean, I’d rather have my son back, but it’s something that needs to be done.”