by lyle e davis
On September 29, 2006, in Ramai, Iraq, a Navy SEAL platoon engaged four insurgents in a firefight, killing one and injuring another. Anticipating further attacks, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, three SEAL snipers and three Iraqi soldiers took up a rooftop position. Civilians aiding the insurgents blocked off the streets, and a nearby mosque broadcast a message for people to fight against the Americans and the Iraqi soldiers. Monsoor was protecting his SEAL comrades, two of whom were 15 feet away. His position made him the only SEAL on the rooftop with quick access to an escape route.
A grenade was thrown onto the rooftop by an insurgent in the street below. The grenade hit Monsoor in the chest and fell onto the floor. Immediately, Monsoor fell onto and covered the grenade with his body, saving the lives of his three comrades. Monsoor was critically wounded and, although evacuated immediately, died 30 minutes later. Two SEALs next to him were injured by the blast but lived. Monsoor could have gotten out of harm’s way before it went off, but three other Navy SEALs and eight Iraqi soldiers could not. So Monsoor, age 25, dove on the grenade to shield the others from the blast.
Navy Petty Officer Mike Monsoor, a Navy EOD Technician, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
posthumously for jumping on that grenade and giving his life to save his fellow Seals.
During Mike Monsoor's funeral in San Diego, as his coffin was being moved from the hearse to the grave site at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery, SEALs were lined up on both sides of the pallbearers route forming a column of two's, with the coffin moving up the center. As Mike's coffin passed, each SEAL, having removed his gold Trident from his uniform, slapped it down embedding the Trident in the wooden coffin.
The slaps were audible from across the cemetery; by the time the coffin arrived grave side, it looked as though it had a gold inlay from all the Tridents pinned to it. This was a fitting send-off for a warrior hero. The symbolic display moved many, including President George W. Bush, who during his speech in April's Medal of Honor ceremony spoke about the incident.
"The procession went on nearly half an hour," Bush said. "And when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten.”
Four SEALs spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because their work requires their identities to remain secret. In an interview at the SEALs' West Coast headquarters in Coronado, those four members of the special force remembered "Mikey" as a loyal friend and a quiet, dedicated professional.
One of them said, "He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," said a 28-year-old lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him."
Monsoor's parents, George and Sally Monsoor, received the medal on his behalf at an April 8 ceremony at the White House held by the president.
Monsoor became the fourth American servicemember and second Navy SEAL — each killed in the line of duty — to receive the United States' highest military award for the "war on terrorism."
Monsoor embodied the “SEAL ethos,” said the head of Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego said in a Navy news release.
“He led by example and protected his teammates to the very end,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Kernan in the news release. “But more than that, Mike was a brother in our family. We will honor him every day by upholding the values he shared with us as SEALs.”
What makes a guy like Mike Monsoor become a SEAL? A look at his background may give us a clue.
Michael was the third of four children born to a Marine father and an American mother. Afflicted with asthma as a child, Monsoor strengthened his lungs by racing his siblings in the family's swimming pool. Monsoor attended Garden Grove High School in Garden Grove, California. He played tight-end on the school's football team and graduated in 1999. His hobbies included snowboarding, body-boarding, spearfishing, motorcycle riding, and driving his Chevrolet Corvette.
In 2001 Monsoor decided to give up the civilian life, at least for awhile. He joined the United States Navy in 2001 before the September 11 terrorist attacks. He decided to strive for a spot with the SEALs, the Navy’s elite fighters known for their physical prowess, endurance and versatility. He withdrew during his first tryout after breaking a heel.
When he tried again in 2004, he graduated near the top of his class. He graduated from Class 250 of the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 2004. He was later assigned to Delta Platoon, SEAL Team Three.
"I truly thought he was the toughest member of my platoon," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, his platoon commander in Iraq.
He was a petty officer second class when he died at age 25.
"He was just a fun-loving guy," said a 26-year-old petty officer 2nd class who went through the grueling 29-week SEAL training with Monsoor. "Always got something funny to say, always got a little mischievous look on his face."
Other SEALS described the Garden Grove, Calif., native as a modest and humble man who drew strength from his family and his faith. His father and brother are former Marines, said a 31-year-old petty officer 2nd class.
During his tour in Iraq, Monsoor served as a heavy weapons machine gunner for his platoon and a SEAL communicator. On 15 operations, he carried his communications gear, machine gun and ammunition, weighing more than 100 pounds.
“He bore the weight without a single complaint, even in the midst of the 130 degree Western Iraqi summer,” his SEAL teammates said.
Monsoor had previously been awarded the Silver Star for rescuing another SEAL who, while in Ramadia, Iraq, had been shot in the leg on May 9, 2006.
“He ran out into the street with another SEAL, shot cover fire and dragged his comrade to safety while enemy bullets kicked up the concrete at their feet,” said his brother SEALs.
Prior to that award he had also received a Bronze Star for helping to safeguard fellow troops on 11 occasions by risking death from enemy fire to unleash his own suppressive fire, according to a Navy citation. . . .
The enemy could not deter Michael and his SEAL platoon. They fought in 35 heated firefights; during these incidents Mike shot tens of thousands of 7.62 millimeter rounds to cover Delta Platoon’s movement through streets that seemed to be paved with fire. In the Ma’laab district, Michael perfected his skills as an urban machine gunner. Once he and his men established a sniper overwatch position, he deftly transitioned to his role as a SEAL communicator calling in tank support and transmitting enemy situation reports to the 1-506 PIR Commander.
At a ceremony honoring Monsoor, all three SEALs whose lives Mike personally saved hobbled up together to thank Michael and his family for their very existence and to show their family's gratitude for sparing them the grief that Michael's family is now experiencing. The first Navy SEAL to die in Iraq was Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc A. Lee, 28, who was killed Aug. 2 in a firefight while on patrol against insurgents in Ramadi. Navy spokesman Lt. Taylor Clark said the low number of deaths among SEALs in Iraq is a testament to their training.
Sixteen SEALs have been killed in Afghanistan. Eleven of them died in June 2005 when a helicopter was shot down near the Pakistan border while ferrying reinforcements for troops pursuing al-Qaida militants. There are about 2,300 of the elite fighters, based in Coronado, Ca. and Little Creek, Va.
The Navy is trying to boost that number by 500 - a challenge considering more than 75 percent of candidates drop out of training, notorious for "Hell Week," a five-day stint of continual drills by the ocean broken by only four hours sleep total.
After Monsoor had completed his SEAL team training, he was assigned to SEAL Team Three, which was sent to Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006 and assigned to train and mentor Iraqi army troops.
He took a lead position to protect the platoon from frontal assault. The team was involved in frequent engagements with insurgent fighters. Over the first five months of the deployment, the team reportedly killed 84 insurgents.
George and Sally Monsoor, parents of Mike Monsoor,
receive the Congressional Medal of Honor from President George W. Bush on April 8, 2008, at a White House Ceremony