By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the nearly 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.
One of America’s more recent Medal of Honor recipients had a quiet demeanor and was dedicated to his friends and family – two of the qualities that fit the Navy SEAL mentality. So it’s no surprise that Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor made that career his calling.
Monsoor was born in 1981 in Long Beach, California, and joined the Navy in 2001, when he was 20. Four years later, he became a SEAL, graduating as one of the top performers in his class.
Monsoor deployed to Iraq in April 2006 with Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula as a communicator and heavy weapons machine gunner, protecting his platoon from attacks in Ramadi. The town was one of the most violent areas of Iraq at that time. Conditions were so bad that official reports showed Monsoor’s unit came under attack on 75 percent of its missions.
During one of them, Monsoor saved a fellow SEAL who had been shot in the leg. He ran into the street, fired back at the enemy and dragged his wounded teammate to safety. For that, Monsoor earned a Silver Star.
On Sept. 29, 2006, Monsoor, three other SEALs and eight Iraqi army snipers were providing early warning protection to other units from a residential rooftop in a section of Ramadi that was known to be an insurgent stronghold. Early that morning, Monsoor’s unit noticed four insurgents with AK-47 assault rifles surveying their position on the roof. The SEAL unit’s snipers were able to take down two of the men, injuring one and killing the other.
That wouldn’t keep the insurgents at bay for long, though – especially since area residents were helping them by blocking roads and calling on them to fight. The insurgents returned later that day, first firing on the SEALS from a moving vehicle, then by shooting a rocket-propelled grenade at their building.
The SEALs stayed put, though, continuing their guard mission despite knowing the attacks would continue.
Monsoor took up a spot on the roof in a confined area between two other SEAL snipers so they could maximize their ability to surveil the area. As Monsoor monitored for enemy activity, an insurgent they didn’t see threw a hand grenade, which bounced off Monsoor’s chest and landed in front of him.
Of the three men on the roof, Monsoor was the closest to the exit. But instead of running for safety, he threw himself on top of the grenade to shield his two teammates from the explosion. Monsoor survived the initial blast, but he died about 30 minutes later. The teammates he gave his life for survived.
On April 8, 2008, Monsoor’s parents received the Medal of Honor in his name from President George W. Bush.
His courage and selflessness continue to be honored. Last June, Monsoor’s parents were again on hand at an official Navy ceremony, this time to christen the Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer that was named in their son’s honor. The USS Michael Monsoor is expected to be fully commissioned in 2018.
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