Bravery under fire: Remembering Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith 5 years after earning the Medal of Honor
Media is Absent on Medal of Honor Awardees

US Navy Seal Mike Monsoor - Awarded the Medal of Honor

    "I can honestly say that as a Pastor I rarely find myself "speechless". However this is one of those times.  After viewing the video tribute to Mike Monsoor I am just that...Speechless.  There are no words to express the profound sadness and yet great...pride, honor, appreciation, humility, indebtedness, glory, at the sacrifice of this young man.        Know that this story will be retold at least from one pulpit this next Sunday and that the prayers of at least one Church will go out for the family and friends of this great soldier.        May God bless you for the work of proclaiming this great sacrifice and promoting what is great about the people of our Armed Services." - Baptist Minister from Memphis, Tennessee, in an email to us at Blackfive about US Navy SEAL Mike Monsoor.

How are we best to tell the story of Michael Monsoor - a man who's sacrifice inspired a preacher to tell his story from the pulpit?

We'll begin at the end this time because, while many of us believe that it's how you lived that matters, how you leave this world can matter just as much.

Saving three of your brothers by giving your life...could you do that?  Mike Monsoor gave three friends their lives that day.

As you will see, the embodiment of the idea of brotherhood is what Mike was all about...

From the US Navy:

Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL)
         Michael Anthony Monsoor
        April 5, 1981 – Sept. 29, 2006


Petty Officer Second Class Michael Anthony Monsoor was born April 5, 1981 in Long Beach, Calif.  Michael grew up in Garden Grove, Calif., as the third of four children of George and Sally Monsoor. He has an older brother James and older sister Sara, and a younger brother Joseph.
Michael attended Dr. Walter C. Ralston Intermediate School and Garden Grove High School where he played tight end on the Argonaut football team and graduated in 1999. An incredible athlete, Mike enjoyed snowboarding, body boarding, spear fishing, motorcycle riding, and driving his Corvette. His quiet demeanor and dedication to his friends matched the “Silent Warrior” SEAL mentality that was to become his calling in life. 
Michael enlisted in the U.S. Navy March 21, 2001, and attended Basic Training at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill.  Upon graduation from basic training, he attended Quartermaster “A” School, and then transferred to Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Italy for a short period of time.
Petty Officer Monsoor entered Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, Calif., and subsequently graduated with Class 250 on Sept. 2, 2004 as one of the top performers in his class.

(Photo Courtesy of the Monsoor family)

After BUD/S, he completed advanced SEAL training courses including parachute training at Basic Airborne School, Fort Benning, Ga., cold weather combat training in Kodiak, Alaska, and six months of SEAL Qualification Training in Coronado, graduating in March 2005.

(Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor poses for a photo while attending cold weather training in Kodiak, Alaska in 2004.  Photo courtesy of the Monsoor family.)

The following month, his rating changed from Quartermaster to Master-at-Arms, and he was assigned to SEAL Team 3 Delta Platoon. He deployed with his platoon to Iraq in April 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was assigned to Task Unit Bravo in Ar Ramadi.

(Petty Officer Second Class Michael Monsoor - kneeling in Ramadi, Iraq. Photo courtesy of the Monsoor family)

From April to Sept. 29, 2006, Mike served as a heavy weapons machine gunner in Delta Platoon, SEAL Team 3.  During combat patrols he walked behind the platoon point man with his Mk 48 machinegun so that he could protect his platoon from a frontal enemy attack. 

Mike was also a SEAL communicator.  On 15 operations, he carried a rucksack full of communications equipment in addition to his machinegun and full ammunition load-out.  Collectively it weighed more than 100 pounds.  He bore the weight without a single complaint, even in the midst of the 130 degree Western Iraqi summer.

(Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor poses for a photo on a rooftop in Ar Ramadi Iraq, while deployed in 2006.  Photo courtesy of the Monsoor family.)

Mike and his platoon operated in a highly contested part of Ramadi city called the Ma’laab district. During their deployment, Mike and his fellow SEALS came under enemy attack on 75 percent of their missions. On May 9, 2006 Mike rescued a SEAL who was shot in the leg. 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.  For this brave action, he earned a Silver Star.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy as a Platoon Machine Gunner, Naval Special Warfare Task Group - Arabian Peninsula, Task Force Ramadi, Iraq on 9 May 2006.  Petty Officer Monsoor was the Platoon Machine Gunner of an overwatch element, providing security for an Iraqi Army Brigade during counter-insurgency operations.  While moving toward extraction, the Iraqi Army and Naval Special Warfare overwatch team receive effective enemy automatic weapons fire resulting in one SEAL wounded in action.  Immediately, Petty Officer Monsoor, with complete disregard for his own safety, expose himself to heavy enemy fire in order to provide suppressive fire and fight his way to the wounded SEAL's position.  He continued to provide effective suppressive fire while simultaneously dragging the wounded SEAL to safety.  Petty Officer Monsoor maintained suppressive fire as the wounded SEAL received tactical casualty treatment to his leg.  He also helped load his wounded teammate into a High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle for evacuation, then returned to combat.  by his bold initiative, undaunted courage, and complete dedication to duty, Petty Officer Monsoor reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

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. 

Delta Platoon executed a broad spectrum of combat operations in and around Ramadi. They patrolled bravely through the city streets engaging in firefights while on other occasions, they ambushed insurgent mortar teams near the banks of the Euphrates River.  Mike and his fellow SEALs accounted for 84 enemy fighters killed in action and the detainment of numerous insurgents. Most notably, the Army Infantry, Navy SEAL and Iraqi Army combined force helped to pacify the most violent city in Al Anbar province setting conditions for the Sunni Awakening.

Petty Officer Monsoor was subsequently awarded the Bronze Star as the Task Unit Ramadi, Iraq Combat Advisor from April to September 2006. His leadership, guidance and decisive actions during 11 different combat operations saved the lives of his teammates, other Coalition Forces and Iraqi Army soldiers.

For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as Task Unit Ramadi, Iraq, Combat Advisor for Naval Special Warfare Task Group - Arabian Peninsula in Support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM from April to September 2006.  On 11 different operations, Petty Officer Monsoor exposed himself to heavy enemy fire while shielding his teammates with suppressive fire.  He aggressively stabilized each chaotic situation with focused determination and uncanny tactical awareness.  Each time insurgents assaulted his team with small arms fire or rocket propelled grenades, he quickly assessed the situation, determined the best course of action to counter the enemy assaults, and implemented his plan to gain the best tactical advantage.  His selfless, decisive, heroic actions resulted in 25 enemy killed and save the lives of his teammates, other Coalition Forces, and Iraqi Army soldiers.  By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication to duty, Petty Officer Monsoor reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously in a ceremony at the White House April 8, 2008. He will receive the award for his actions in Ar Ramadi, Iraq on Sept. 29, 2006. On that day, Monsoor was part of a sniper overwatch security position with three other SEALs and eight Iraqi Army (IA) soldiers. An insurgent closed in and threw a fragmentation grenade into the overwatch position. The grenade hit Monsoor in the chest before falling to the ground. Positioned next to the single exit, Monsoor was the only one who could have escaped harm. Instead, he dropped onto the grenade to shield the others from the blast. Monsoor died approximately 30 minutes later from wounds sustained from the blast. Because of Petty Officer Monsoor’s actions, he saved the lives of his 3 teammates and the IA soldiers.

Though he carried himself in a calm and composed fashion, he constantly led the charge to bring the fight to the enemy. His teammates recall his sense of loyalty to God, family, and his team.  He attended Catholic Mass devotionally before operations, and often spoke lovingly of his family - his older brother, a police officer and former Marine for whom he held great respect; his sister, a nurse; and his younger brother, a college football player.

Mike was one of the bravest men on the battlefield, never allowing the enemy to discourage him. He remained fearless while facing constant danger, and through his selfless nature and aggressive actions, saved the lives of coalition soldiers and his fellow SEALs.  He was a loyal friend and exceptional SEAL, and he is sorely missed by his brothers in Task Unit Bravo.

He is survived by his mother Sally, his father George, his sister Sara, and his two brothers James and Joseph.

On October 12th, 2006, Froggy posted about his attendance at Mike's funeral:

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.

I received this note from someone attending Mike's funeral:

During Petty Officer Mike Monsoor's funeral here in San Diego, as Mike's 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 the 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.

At the reception afterwards, the SEALS were easily identified among the other military guests because they had a stack of valor ribbons with pin holes above where their Naval Special Warfare Device or Trident had been.

And here are two videos (one a tribute to Mike and the other is a video of Marcus Luttrell talking about Mike):

Words cannot describe our gratitude and thankfulness that men like Mike Monsoor lived among us.

Update 04-08-08:  The President's comments from the ceremony are posted after the Jump.





East Room


3:07 P.M. EDT


     THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, and welcome. 


     The Medal of Honor is America's highest decoration for military valor.  Over the years, many who have received the medal have given their lives in the action that earned it.  The name of Petty Officer Michael Anthony Monsoor will now be among them.   


     In September 2006, Michael laid down his life for his brothers in arms. Today, we remember the life of this faithful Navy SEAL.  And on behalf of a grateful nation, we will present Michael Monsoor's family with the Medal of Honor that he earned. 


     I welcome the Vice President.  Secretary of Defense Gates, thank you for coming.  Secretary of Veterans Affairs Peake; Secretary Don Winter of the Navy; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and wife, Deborah; General James Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Annette; Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, and wife, Ellen; Senator John McCain; Congressman Ed Royce; Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.


    Previous Medal of Honor recipients, thank you for joining us.


     I appreciate Chaplain Burt; Navy SEALS -- the finest warriors on the face of the Earth; the Monsoor family, and everybody else. 


     The Medal of Honor is awarded for an act of such courage that no one could rightly be expected to undertake it.  Yet those who knew Michael Monsoor were not surprised when he did.  This son of Orange County, California, grew up in a family where helping others was a way of life.  Mike's father was a Marine; his mother a social worker.  Together, they raised their four children to understand the meaning of service and sacrifice.


     From a very early age, Mike showed the strength of his own convictions. Apparently going to kindergarten wasn't one of them.  Mike had no complaints after the first week of school -- until someone broke the news to him that he had to go back the next week.  (Laughter.)  Many mornings, Mike refused to put on the nice clothes for school.  Instead, he insisted on wearing mismatched outfits.  Mike's mother soon discovered there was no stopping the determined young boy from mixing plaids and stripes.  And years later, there would be no stopping an even more determined young man from donning a uniform of Navy Blue.


     In some ways, Mike was an unlikely candidate for the Navy.  He suffered from terrible asthma as a child.  On some nights, his coughing fits would land him in the hospital.  But Mike would not lie low for long.  He strengthened his lungs by racing his siblings in the swimming pool.  He worked to wean himself off his inhaler.  He built himself into a superb athlete -- excelling from sports like football to snowboarding. 


    After enlisting in the Navy, he began preparing for the ultimate test of physical endurance:  SEAL training.  Less than a third of those who begin this training become SEALs.  But Mike would not be denied a spot. In September 2004, he earned the right to wear the Navy SEAL trident. 


     The newly minted frogman became a beloved member of the SEAL team community. His teammates liked to laugh about the way his shiny Corvette would leave everybody in the dust.  But deep down, they always knew Mike would never leave anybody behind when it counted.  He earned their confidence with his attention to detail and quiet work ethic.  One of Mike's officers remembers an instructor once asking after an intense training session, "What's the deal with the Monsoor guy?  He just says, 'Roger that,' to everything." 


    When Mike deployed with his team to Ramadi in the spring of 2006, he brought that attitude with him.  Because he served as both a heavy machine gunner and a communications operator, he often had a double load of equipment -- sometimes more than a hundred pounds worth.  But under the glare of the hot desert sun, he never lost his cool. 


     At the time, Ramadi was in the clutches of al Qaeda terrorists and insurgents.  Together, the SEALs and the Army 1st Battalion of the 506 Infantry Regiment took the offense against the enemy.  The SEALs carried out a broad range of special operations -- including providing sniper cover in tough urban conditions, and conducting raids against terrorists and insurgents.  Overall, Mike's platoon came under enemy attack during 75 percent of their missions.  And in most of these engagements, Mike was out front defending his brothers.   


     In May 2006, Mike and another SEAL ran into the line of fire to save a wounded teammate.  With bullets flying all around them, Mike returned fire with one hand while helping pull the injured man to safety with the other.  In a dream about the incident months later, the wounded SEAL envisioned Mike coming to the rescue with wings on his shoulders. 


     On Saint Michael's Day -- September 29, 2006 -- Michael Monsoor would make the ultimate sacrifice.  Mike and two teammates had taken position on the outcropping of a rooftop when an insurgent grenade bounced off Mike's chest and landed on the roof.  Mike had a clear chance to escape, but he realized that the other two SEALs did not.  In that terrible moment, he had two options -- to save himself, or to save his friends.  For Mike, this was no choice at all.  He threw himself onto the grenade, and absorbed the blast with his body.  One of the survivors puts it this way:  "Mikey looked death in the face that day and said, 'You cannot take my brothers. I will go in their stead.'"


    Perhaps the greatest tribute to Mike's life is the way different service members all across the world responded to his death.  Army soldiers in Ramadi hosted a memorial service for the valiant man who had fought beside them.  Iraqi Army scouts -- whom Mike helped train -- lowered their flag, and sent it to his parents.  Nearly every SEAL on the West Coast turned out for Mike's funeral in California.  As the SEALs filed past the casket, they removed their golden tridents from their uniforms, pressed them onto the walls of the coffin.  The procession went on nearly half an hour. And when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten. 


     For his valor, Michael Monsoor becomes the fourth Medal of Honor recipient in the war on terror.  Like the three men who came before him, Mike left us far too early.  But time will not diminish his legacy.  We see his legacy in the SEALs whose lives he saved.  We see his legacy in the city of Ramadi, which has gone from one of the most dangerous places in Iraq to one of the most safest.  We see his legacy in the family that stands before us filled with grief, but also with everlasting pride. 


     Mr. and Mrs. Monsoor:  America owes you a debt that can never be repaid. This nation will always cherish the memory of your son.  We will not let his life go in vain.  And this nation will always honor the sacrifice he made.  May God comfort you.  May God bless America. 


    Come on up.  And now George and Sally Monsoor will be here -- a Military Aide will read the citation. 


     The citation is read: 


     The President of the United States, in the name of the Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to Master At Arms Second Class, Sea, Air and Land, Michael A. Monsoor, United States Navy.  For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Automatic Weapons Gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006. 


     As a member of a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army sniper overwatch element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent-held sector of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger.  In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element's position.  Element snipers thwarted the enemy's initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents.  The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire.  As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof.  While the SEALs vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor's chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates.  Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates.  By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


    (The Medal of Honor is presented.)  (Applause.)


                            END           3:17 P.M. EDT