Medal of Honor is tribute to sailor's sacrifice to save others
Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor will posthumously receive the award, only the third time it has been bestowed during the Iraq war.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In May 2006, only a month into his first deployment to Iraq, the Navy SEAL from Garden Grove, Calif., ran under fire into a street to drag to safety a wounded comrade who was shot in the leg, earning a Silver Star for his courage.
On Sept. 29, 2006, another act of valor would cost Mr. Monsoor his life – and save the lives of three comrades. For that act, he will posthumously be awarded a Medal of Honor on April 8, the White House said Monday.
Monsoor "distinguished himself through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life," said an official summary of action. He is the first sailor and the third service member overall to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in the war in Iraq.
That September morning, Monsoor and a group of SEAL snipers took up position on a residential rooftop as part of an operation to push into a dangerous section of southern Ramadi. Four insurgents armed with AK-47 rifles came into view, and the SEAL snipers opened fire, killing one and wounding another. Loudspeakers from a mosque broadcast calls for insurgents to rally, and residents blocked off nearby roads with rocks.
Insurgents shot back at the SEAL position with automatic weapons from a moving vehicle and fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the building. The SEALs knew more attacks were inevitable but continued their mission of protecting the troops clearing the area below, according to an official account.
Monsoor's commander repositioned him in a small hidden location between two SEAL snipers on an outcropping of the roof, facing the most likely route of another insurgent attack. As Monsoor manned his gun, an insurgent lobbed up a hand grenade, which hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced onto the roof.
"Grenade!" Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.
"He made an instantaneous decision to save our teammates. I immediately understood what happened, and tragically it made sense to me in keeping with the man I know, Mike Monsoor," said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, Monsoor's platoon leader in Ramadi.
Monsoor, the third of four children, played football at Garden Grove High School and joined the Navy in 2001, where he was a top performer in his SEAL training class. He graduated in 2004. Monsoor's sister Sara, a nurse, said her brother's e-mails never revealed the dangers he faced, but she knew the SEAL team was like his family. "He already had it in his head – he would be the first one to jump in and protect," she said.