Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti’s father had no idea he was the inspiration behind a No. 1 Billboard country hit.
It was Memorial Day weekend two years ago, and Paul Monti was interviewed on the radio about his son, who was killed June 21, 2006, in Afghanistan and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.
Connie Harrington, a Nashville-based songwriter, was listening in her car.
“He mentioned that he drives his son’s truck as a way to feel close to him,” Harrington said. “I was just really moved that he still drove his son’s truck. Even though it burns a lot of gas, he didn’t care.”
Harrington, whose father served in the Army and was a POW in the Philippines for about 18 months, didn’t catch Paul Monti’s name, but she quickly jotted down some notes.
“I’m crying and trying not to drive off the road, writing on these Post-It notes on my steering wheel,” she said.
Armed with those notes, Harrington, Jessi Alexander and Jimmy Yeary wrote “I Drive Your Truck,” and began to shop it around to recording studios and artists.
Before long, country singer Lee Brice recorded the song, and it was released in December 2012, the third single off his album “Hard 2 Love.”
All that time, Harrington said she couldn’t figure out the identity of the man she’d heard on the radio.
Brice’s record company even tried to track down the man, but it wasn’t until Harrington began “digging and digging on the Internet” that she finally put a name to the voice on the radio.
The songwriters tracked down Paul Monti by phone.
“I don’t know what he thought we were calling him for,” Harrington said. “We told him, ‘You inspired the song. We’ve been trying to find you for quite some time.’ It was a wonderful, very emotional phone call.”
Jared Monti, of 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was killed while trying to save one of his soldiers, Pfc. Brian Bradbury, who was pinned down by fierce enemy fire.
Both men died that day.
“I had no idea,” Harrington said. “It just was crazy.”
Paul Monti told them he first heard the song at the recommendation of Bradbury’s mother – without either of them knowing Paul Monti’s words had inspired the song.
Harrington said she also found out the day they finished writing the song, June 21, 2011, was “the anniversary of when Jared and Brian lost their lives.”
On May 13, Harrington will meet Paul Monti at a party in Nashville to celebrate the song reaching the top of the charts.
“We’re very excited and honored,” Harrington said. “It’s been a very emotional song for everybody.”
Check out the song here: