I had the distinct honor and privilege of attending the memorial service for PO2 (SEAL) Michael Monsoor yesterday at the First Presbyterian Church in San Diego. Being in the presence of so many true warriors to celebrate the heroic death of one of our own was utterly humbling and poignant. Information about Mike's death in Ramadi on 29 Sep 06 has been sketchy in the media, but the story of this man's service and his death is one that deserves not only to be told, but to be celebrated and certainly never forgotten.
First of all, Mike grew up in Garden Grove, CA (Orange County) with his parents and two brothers and one sister. His father is a Vietnam veteran and one of his brothers served in the Marine Corps. Speaker after speaker at the service took special care to recognize Mike's family and to make the connection between his character and his family's quiet service and patriotism. One of Mike's teammates said, "These are the people that I'm fighting to protect." I spent a few moments with his mother afterwards and her grace and composure under such difficult circumstances clearly demonstrated the genesis of Mike's own calmness and resolve under fire and inspired me to continue to instill these traits in my own children.
SEAL Team THREE deployed to Iraq last Spring and within a month of arriving, Mike had already distinguished himself. As one of the platoon machine gunners, Mike made quite an impression on the battlefield. On May 9, 2006 a teammate was shot in the legs, immobile, and exposed. Suppressing enemy fire with his M60, Mike fought his way to his wounded comrade's position and dragged him out of the line of fire while maintaining constant pressure on enemy insurgents with his weapon. That action earned him a Silver Star... in the first month of his first deployment.
Fast forward to the final weeks of that deployment and Mike along with two fellow SEALs were occupying an overwatch position on a rooftop in the Mulab district of Ramadi which is basically the most dangerous neighborhood of the most dangerous city in Iraq. A hidden enemy managed to toss a grenade onto the rooftop near the three SEALs, and Mike without hesitation warned his comrades verbally before placing himself in a position to block the lethal blast of the grenade from killing his teammates. One of the SEALs he saved said that Mike's countenance was completely calm and he showed no fear only resolve. No short timer's disease infecting this man, he had only a couple of weeks remaining in the deployment and he did not flinch at the moment of truth.
On the rostrum, 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. I have never witnessed something as special and inspiring in my entire life-I have never even heard of such a thing happening before. Michael's sister Sara told of a vision that she had upon hearing the news that her brother had died a hero's death saving his brothers. She said that she saw a puzzle missing its final piece being completed by an unseen hand and that its visage was that of her brother. His actions, his deeds, his sacrifice were the culmination of a lifetime of preparation to go forth into combat and distinguish himself above and beyond the call of duty.
Michael was a Christian man, raised in the Catholic Church and was often seen attending Mass before leaving the FOB on operations. His parents named him after the Archangel Michael-the great protector whose mission was to protect the world from the satanic forces of evil. Saint Michael's Day is celebrated on September 29, the day Mike gave his life for his friends.
I will be meeting with my Congressman next week in order to advocate that Mike is nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor.
[Blackfive Note: Froggy had also posted about Michael's death last week. In that post (which you can find here), the great folks at Soldiers' Angels are gathering notes of sympathy for Michael's family. You can send cards to the address in that post.]