Paul Monti, Mass. Goldstar Dad, Dead at 76 – NBC Boston

Paul Monti, a Massachusetts man who was a hero among the Gold Star families and the inspiration behind an award-winning country song, died Friday of 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 changes after the death of his son Sgt. Jared Monti.

After his son died in action on June 21, 2006, Monti served as a rock for others who were also trying to find their way after losing a loved one in the war, and those who knew Monti must now come to terms with him Death.

“He’s one of the greatest men I’ve ever met,” said State Representative Steve Xiarhos, who is also a Gold Star father.

“When this terrible thing happens it changes your life forever and Paul was someone to lean on and he became a mentor to me,” Xiarhos said of how Monti helped him after his own son Nicholas went abroad had died.

Paul Monti with State Rep. Steve Xiarhos, both Gold Star sires

Volunteers attended a ceremony at a veterans’ cemetery in Bourne on Saturday, placing thousands of American flags on headstones for Memorial Day.

Monti was a former teacher at Stoughton who became an advocate for Gold Star families based on his own personal experience.

After Monti’s son was killed in Afghanistan, making sure no soldier was forgotten became his life’s work.

Noticing that there were no American flags on the graves at Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, he fought to change that and created Operation Flags for Vets.

Now volunteers place 80,000 flags on headstones every Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

“It’s one of his greatest achievements,” Xiarhos said. “It will live on forever.”

According to his obituary, Monti was never prouder than when his son was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2009. Monti accepted the honor at the White House from President Barack Obama.

Over the years, Monti has traveled across the country giving speeches and supporting many organizations while continuing to help other Gold Star families.

Xiarhos recalled collapsing during a charity drive and Monti driving his son’s old truck, as in the country song he inspired.

“He sat me on the tailgate of his son’s truck and said, ‘God saw Nick do good things and he had to make him do great things.'”

The same could now be said of Paul Monti.

Of the tributes posted online, several thanked him for all the good things he did while he was here.

“Paul was a Stoughton legend. His influence on Stoughton High School cannot be quantified,” wrote Dave Guglia. “His influence as a Gold Star father will last for generations.”

“Thank you for everything you’ve done. My family and many other families thank you for changing the rules to allow flags to be placed on military graves,” wrote Pat Lewey. “[You’re] with your boy now, May [you] Rest in peace.”

Monti will be buried in the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne on Thursday. Full service details can be found in his obituary online.

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