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November 7th, 2013
06:52 PM ET

Heartbreaking story behind CMA's Song of the Year, 'I Drive Your Truck'

(CNN) - The Country Music Association Awards' Song of the Year has a simple name - "I Drive Your Truck." But it's the deep emotion, the inconceivable feeling of loss behind the song that helped earn it the honor.

"Thank you so much Jared, for what you did for this country," songwriter Jimmy Yeary said in his CMA acceptance speech.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti was killed in Afghanistan while trying to save a fellow soldier. The song is about the absence of Jared, the deep longing for him felt by his father, Paul.

"Very humble kid, very hard working kid, extremely adventurous kid. There was no hill too high, no tree too tall for Jared," Monti told CNN.

In 2011, Paul Monti told a reporter with Boston Public Radio about his operation Flags for Vets, his mission to place American flags on the graves of service members on Memorial Day.

"Do you still drive Jared's truck?" a Boston radio reporter asked.

"Yes, I do," he said. "I just love driving it because it reminds me of him. Though I don't need the truck to remind me of him, I think about him every hour of every day."

A songwriter from Nashville, Connie Harrington, was on her way home from work the day of the broadcast. She wasn't in the mood for music, which she'd been listening to all day, so she tuned into NPR, and caught Monti's interview.

She "heard the interviewer ask how I keep Jared close, and I said well, ‘I drive his truck.’ It struck her immediately, and she wrote it down on a notepad she had in the car," Monti said.

CNN caught up with him in Brockton, Massachusetts, where he is still living out his son's message of strength and duty, and, yes, still driving Jared's black Dodge Ram pickup. He was pleased to hear about the award.

"It was very uplifting. It was a song that's touched the hearts of Gold Star Families (immediate families of fallen service members) throughout the country, as well as other families that have lost their child. It's fitting that we have something out there that honors them that they can hold on to," said Paul.

Jared Monti was killed during an intense firefight with as many as 50 insurgents on Hill 2610, in a remote area of Afghanistan in 2006. When one of the soldiers was severely wounded and pinned down under a barrage of gunfire, Monti tried to reach him three times.

On his last attempt, he was hit by an RPG. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

“Said his patrol leader, ‘It was the bravest thing I had ever seen a soldier do,’" President Barack Obama said during the award ceremony.

Working with two other songwriters, Harrington found inspiration in Paul's words. After Brice recorded it, the song soon hit No. 1 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart.

Though Monti had no idea.

Cheryl Lee Patrick, the mother of one of the four soldiers killed that day on Hill 2610, sent the song to him. She, too, drives her late son Patrick Lybert's truck. Neither had any idea that Monti was the song's inspiration.

"It was only after the song reached number one, two years later, really that I contacted with Connie Harrington and the songwriters," said Paul.

The truck gets bad mileage. It doesn't matter to Paul.

"I'm alone, in the truck with him, it's just, it's a very special, peaceful feeling," Paul said.

Peace is hard to come by.

"I'm day-to-day ... as are all the Gold Star parents, Gold Star families," said Paul. "It's a pain that never goes away, it's always there. People say time heals all, but in this case it doesn't."

"Losing a parent, that's one thing, that's your past, but losing a child, you've lost your future," said Paul. "You don't have those grandkids to look forward to, and those special days of going to the ballpark together, or going fishing. All of that that you envisioned is gone."

Monti says his hope is that those who enjoy the song learn about Gold Star Families, and what they go through. Listeners have to learn, he says, that freedom isn't free. It's all paid for by the blood of our young men and women.

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Filed under: National Lead
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. dakota

    i love this song cause reminds me of my dad he passed away when i was in the military so sad to think about him every time i hear this song

    March 17, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  2. Cara

    Sad but rip Jared

    February 26, 2014 at 10:27 am | Reply
  3. Cara

    That is sad but it is very nice he would write. That song that other can connect to

    February 26, 2014 at 10:25 am | Reply
  4. Katelynn

    As an army wife, this hit hard with me. The second time I got to see my husband this year, we got married. The day after we got married we went to a Lee Brice concert, and he performed this song. I can't tell you the emotion that ran through that crowd, or the tears I cried knowing that could have been, or could be, my husband. Not a song I can listen to and hold myself together over. Thank God for all the men and women that serve. Bless the troops, and thank Heaven for this song.

    December 4, 2013 at 9:22 am | Reply
  5. sarah357

    I too drive his truck. My husband was a vietnam vet. He passed away last year from the complications of Agent Orange exposure and I miss him very much. I have kept his truck even though it is a gas hog. I can't part with it as it seems like he is still in it with me.I am so sorry for your loss. They say that time eases the pain but it hasn't yet.

    November 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  6. Cathy G.

    The song hit home because I drive my dad's truck for the same reasons. Thank you Mr. Monti for inspiring this song that has touched so many lives. My sincere condolences this Veteran's Day on your tremendous loss. I believe you have another angel looking out for you from above.

    November 11, 2013 at 8:36 am | Reply
    • Suzanne

      My thoughts exactly, I drive my Dad's truck too. Always feel him riding along with me.

      February 5, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  7. Chad Cuomo

    CTG! Climb to Glory. RIP Brother Chad Cuomo

    November 10, 2013 at 1:31 am | Reply
  8. Kim

    As a member of the gold star family I relate to this song. Everytime I hear tears stream down my face. My brother was killed in Afghanistan on February 8, 2009. My cousin still drives my brothers truck. RIP my hero SSG JASON E. BURKHOLDER.

    November 9, 2013 at 11:03 pm | Reply
  9. Josh

    show some respect. this is one of the men that literally died for mine and YOUR freedom – how would there be any negative comments following this story? it doesnt matter wether you think our troops should be over there or not – they are. and they are making sacrifices for us that me and you are not making. so stop talking about what music they are listening to or if they passed away in vain or not. and thanks to lee brice for putting his heart into this song and giving the family the respect they deserve.

    November 9, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  10. Briana

    My brother, USMC Sgt. Elisha Parker, was KIA in Iraq on 4 May 2006. My youngest brother Andrew drives his truck. I think it makes the family feel a little closer to Eli :-) The day we have to get rid of it will be sad.

    November 9, 2013 at 4:00 am | Reply
  11. farside6262

    My daughter is in the Army National Guard. Part of her unit is soon being deployed stateside, the other portion to Afghanistan. Not sure where she is going and (as a liberal pacifist) wish to he** none of these wars were started by our "fearless leaders"...can't help but note that their kids never serve!
    They all deserve our support and while not a country music fan, I appreciate the acknowledgement of the sacrifices these young people make for their country...even though I DO NOT agree with the reasons they are there.
    Dingdong, pull your head out of your derriere; did you learn nothing from Vietnam? The war and the politicians who got us involved are the enemies, our troops are just doing what their job forces them to.

    November 8, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Reply
  12. maria

    R. I. P. Jared , what a touchy story ...

    November 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  13. jon

    Having read Tapper's book "The Outpost" in which I read the story of hill 2610 (in the book) and having worked in Jalalabad, all Americans can know that something good has come out of the losses I hope the families can keep driving the trucks or vehicles of their loved ones until they arrive at a place and time of peace and reunion with the departed.

    November 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Reply
  14. Maureen

    When I hear this song I think of my brother who was killed in Vietnam 45 yrs. ago, and yes, I cry everytime.
    Nothing replaces the loss. I found it interesting to learn that the inspiration for this song began with Jared Monti's father; since I had previously learned of Jared's sacrifice in the local media. I will now think of Jared and his family, too, when I hear this song.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Reply
  15. Sarah

    The first time i heard this song as a Gold Star Mom/Blue Star Mom a flat bed truck had just pulled into my driveway with my sons jeep. I remember someone had sent me a message and told me i needed to listen to it. Once my sons jeep was unloaded and i signed the necessary paperwork from the military releasing it i climbed in the drivers seat grabbed hold of the steering wheel and cried . I drive his jeep now and EVERY TIME I Pull up to my sons grave this song never fails to come on the radio even if i haven't heard it played in days. My son loved playing pranks on me so of course he always seems to turn it up as loud as it will go when it comes on :) Awesome song that so many GS families can relate to.

    November 8, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  16. Sha

    Dingdong11 ~ what an appropriate name.

    November 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  17. Sha

    I love this song. While my son was in Iraq, I drove his truck and cried.
    So wonderful that some people get this song. So sad that some try to tell others
    what to listen to ~ pathetic. People should stop taking ownership of other people's space.

    November 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  18. DingDong111

    Oh and more vets have died from suicide upon returning home than in combat. Fact. I say it has mostly been in vain unfortunately.

    November 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Reply
    • You should be ashamed...

      of making a comment such as that on this page. The song is in memory of all the soldiers who have been lost in the war we've been fighting for the past several years, it not only touches home with those families but to anyone else who has lost a loved one in any other tragic accident. It hits home for me just having friends in the military and knowing what could happen to them. If it wasn't for these military men and women you wouldn't even have the freedom to make such a rude and ignorant comment!!!

      November 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  19. DingDong111

    Its nice and all, but I actually think it is kind of cheap. A little easy to pander to people's emotions on this subject. Que the obligatory clips of the troops getting off the plane coming home to tearful family members, and there is your music video. You think the troops are listening to this garbage? No. They are listening to Drowning Pool, and ganster rap.

    November 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Reply
    • Deebes

      Your an idiot, and must not know many veterans. Sure we listen to what you think we do, but the majority of the soldiers I know listen to country, and prefer country over gangster rap and drowning pool. I'm talking about infantry soldiers too. Sure we listen to Five Finger Death Punch and such, mostly to get pumped up. That doesn't mean we don't listen to country.

      November 9, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  20. Justin Brazeal

    I actually knew this man and served with him up until the day he died im glad to see he is not forgotten. Everyone with 3-71 Cav 10th Mountain Division still honors him till this day.

    November 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Reply
    • Nova

      Thank you for your service.

      November 8, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Reply
    • ksd

      Thank you for YOUR service. It is fitting to have this story shared leading into this Veterens Day.

      November 8, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Reply
    • ancv1992

      Thank you for your service!

      November 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  21. BobFromPA

    I am so sorry for these and all families of those who have been killed or injured in defense of our country in the Iraq and Afghanistan combat theaters, and hope that their sacrifice was not in vain!

    November 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Reply
    • jon

      Actually, a lot of war deaths are in vain. Except perhaps for World War II, most of the other deaths and injuries in all of the other subsequent "wars" were just not necessary – except to make money for the "industrial/ary" complex. Great.

      November 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Reply
    • adibese

      Unfortunately, invading a country, with boots on the ground, will cause more long term conflict and bloodshed. Al Qaeda gets stronger every day, and innocents are seeing their lives torn apart. I feel bad for everyone who died for... essentially nothing. It's not their fault.

      November 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  22. scdimaur

    Very humbling story. As far as the song: I made it up to the part with the cemetary.....had to pull over. I couldnt see the road anymore and my steering wheel was just soaked.

    November 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  23. R.T

    There's something about driving a truck and listening to country music... songs like this really bring back memories of my son Rick who was killed in action in Afghanistan..

    The song makes you swear they are right next to you, and who knows perhaps they are...

    November 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Reply
    • dac

      R.T. they always are. I really believe our loved ones are always with us. The bond is too strong for even death to break.

      November 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Reply
  24. mike

    What's with the blurry video game image? That's no photo.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Reply
    • sherissephamCNN

      That is an image we pulled from the Army's profile of Jared Monti. But you're right, it does appear blurry, and we are trying to fix it.

      http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/monti/profile.html

      November 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Reply
    • hMan360

      It's a story about a song memorializing a brave soldier who died fighting for things he felt important enough to put his life on the line for and you're going to complain about a blurry picture taken it what appears to Afghanistan. Wow. You obviously missed the point.

      November 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Reply
    • Brett

      Thank God for all of our veterans and the sacrifices they make for their fellow man. Blurry image or no, my heart goes out to the families of those lost.

      November 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Reply
    • Terri

      The blurry photo was taken just a few weeks before Jared died by another soldier. In my humble opinion, it's an awesome photo. It is cherished by those who know and love him. The scarf he wears around his neck was a gift from an Afghanistan citizen. It was given to him as a sign of respect. Respect is an attribute that I and many others value.

      November 8, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  25. Marnie Peters

    This song touches my heart, my brother was lost in an ATV accident in 2011, he loved his truck and when i hear this song I smile and cry

    November 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Reply
    • Jimmy

      My brother was also killed in a atv accident in 2011. My Step-dad still drives his truck. I remember hearing that song for the first time and thing how cool it was.

      November 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  26. Kaneohe357

    A beautiful tribute, hard to not feel a lump in your throat while watching this story. God bless this family, and all Goldstar families.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:58 am | Reply

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