Whenever I see the television ad where Scott Brown drives his pickup truck to visit Medal of Honor recipient Thomas Hudner, I can’t help but think of the late Sergeant Jared Monti.
Brown made a big show of stopping by Hudner’s house to thank him for his valor in the Korean War. How big? He brought a film crew with him. That crew captured Hudner, in turn, thanking Brown for all he does on behalf of veterans. If it didn’t really have a point, well, it didn’t really matter.
Which brings us to Monti, who was on his fifth combat tour in 2006 when he and the 15 men in his patrol came under ferocious fire on a treacherous ridge in a remote part of Afghanistan.
As the unit took cover, Monti realized one young soldier from New York was missing, injured on the ground in the line of fire. Monti emerged from behind a rock and raced toward the private, the air lighting up with gunfire. He tried once, then twice, and finally a third time when a rocket-propelled grenade tore off his legs. Monti was just 30 years old when he died in battle.
The president, in 2009, posthumously awarded Monti the Medal of Honor, the highest recognition of valor in the military. Monti’s hometown of Raynham, a small community with an enormous heart, vowed to never forget the hero from its midst.
So on Veteran’s Day, 2011, a crowd jammed into the local American Legion post where the main room was dedicated in Monti’s name. Then, this Memorial Day, hundreds of residents and officials turned out for the dedication of a major intersection. In mid-June, the community dedicated a bridge to Monti with another overflow crowd.
You might think that Scott Brown, who made such a show of visiting Hudner, would have been a regular at these ceremonies, right?
Well, wrong. Brown was invited to all three events and attended exactly none of them, dispatching a junior aide in his place. I know he’s busy, but all three days? Apparently, Brown’s “On the Road” tour doesn’t go through Raynham, just 20 minutes from his house.
This has not sat well with the locals. “As soon as I saw that ad, I said, ‘Wow,’ ” said Donald McKinnon, a former selectman. “He’s using a Medal of Honor winner in an ad, and here was the ceremony. Why doesn’t he come?”
Monti’s father, Paul, is a quiet, unassuming man, a former teacher who is universally liked and respected around town. Reached by phone, he first said, “I try to stay out of politics.”
But he went on to say: “If he chooses to send a representative and not show up, that’s his choice. Whatever makes him happy.”
Monti then commended Barney Frank, who attended the bridge dedication, and added, “There are people who speak from the heart and those who speak in whatever way they’ll get votes.”
And that’s the problem with Brown these days. He looks like an actor, not a senator, ridiculously clinging to the wheel of his pickup truck, constantly costumed in Bruins and Red Sox gear, flashing absurdly rehearsed expressions (“Blue Steel?”) as he vows in TV spots to fight for fishermen or laments his opponent’s negative tone. It’s Brown, playing the role of the everyman bipartisan.
But this isn’t acting; it’s real life, real politics, with real consequences, and those are real tax cuts that he’s vowing to give to the wealthiest Americans, and a real deficit that’s only going to grow because of it, and a real income gap that’s getting wider by the day.
I asked Brown’s Senate spokeswoman why he didn’t make any of the events in Raynham. I received an e-mail back saying Monti is “an American hero,” “the finest the nation has to offer,” and “Senator Brown has the deepest respect for him.”
I really hoped Brown was better than this. But as the people of Raynham know, his actions can be far different than his words.McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.