Paul Monti, a man from Massachusetts who was a hero among Gold Star families and the inspiration behind an award-winning country song, died Friday from lung cancer. He was 76.
“I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice is a song based on the pain and resilience of the Gold Star father, whose life forever changed following the death of his son Sgt. Jared Monti.
After his son died in action on June 21, 2006, Monti went on to serve as a rock to others who were also trying to find their way after losing a loved one in war, and those who knew Monti are now having to cope with his death.
“He’s one of the greatest men I ever met,” said State Representative Steve Xiarhos, who is also a Gold Star father.
“When that horrible thing happens, it changes your life forever and Paul was someone I could lean on and he became a mentor to me,” Xiarhos said of how Monti helped him after his own son Nicholas died overseas.
Volunteers attended a ceremony at a veterans cemetery in Bourne on Saturday, placing thousands of American flags at tombstones for Memorial Day.
Monti was a former teacher in Stoughton, who became an advocate for Gold Star families following his own personal experience.
After Monti’s son was killed in Afghanistan, it became his life’s mission to make sure that no soldier was forgotten.
Now, every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, volunteers place 80,000 flags on the burial markers.
“That’s one of his biggest accomplishments,” Xiarhos said. “It will live on forever.”
Monti was never prouder than when his son was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2009, according to his obituary. Monti accepted the honor at the White House from President Barack Obama.
Over the years, Monti traveled all over the country to give speeches, and supported many organizations as he continued to help other Gold Star families.
Xiarhos recalled breaking down during a charity ride, and Monti driving his son’s old truck like in the country song he inspired.
“He sat me on the tailgate of his son’s truck and said, ‘God saw Nick doing good things, and he needed to take him to do great things.’”
The same could be said now about Paul Monti.
Of the tributes posted online, several thanked him for all of the good things he did while here.
“Paul was a Stoughton legend. His impact on Stoughton High School cannot be quantified,” Dave Guglia wrote. “His impact as a Gold Star father will perpetuate for generations.”
“Thank you for all you have done. My family, as well as many other families, thank you for getting rules changed to allow Flags to be placed on the military graves,” Pat Lewey wrote. “[You’re] with your boy now, may [you] rest in peace.”
Monti will be buried Thursday at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne. Complete service details can be found in his obituary online.