On this day in 2006, Michael A. Monsoor a Navy SEAL would distinguish himself to be a true selfless hero and willingly gave his life to safeguard his fellow SEAL operators and would later be presented the Medal of Honor.
Monsoor lost his life in during operations against insurgents in Ar Ramadi, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He joined the Navy in 2001. After a short duty assignment in Sigonella, Sicily he volunteered for Naval Special Warfare School and was a graduate of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training from Class 250 on September 2, 2004, as one of the top performers in his class. He did his follow-on advanced SEAL training and graduated in March 2005 and was assigned to Delta Platoon, SEAL Team 3.
In April 2006, SEAL Team 3 was assigned to Ar Ramadi, Iraq to train Iraqi troops. During this time, they frequently came in heavy contact with Iraqi insurgents. SEAL Team 3 during the early months of 2006 killed an estimated 84 insurgents and was also the unit of Chris Kyle, the SEAL depicted in “American Sniper.”
On May 9, Monsoor, a machine gunner and radio operator for his platoon, raced into a street under a tremendous amount of enemy fire to rescue a wounded SEAL. For this action, he was awarded the Silver Star. He was also awarded a Bronze Star with”V” device.
On the 29th of September, Monsoor and the SEALs were involved in heavy fighting with insurgents in Ar Ramadi. They killed one and wounded another. Monsoor, three SEAL snipers, and three Iraqi soldiers took up positions on a rooftop. Civilians were aiding the insurgents and were blocking the road. A mosque’s loudspeaker was calling to all Iraqis to resist the Americans.
Monsoor’s position was one of protecting the two SEALs nearby on the roof from the access. An insurgent below hurled a grenade from the streets below. It hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced to the roof. Without a second’s hesitation, he yelled “Grenade!” and launched himself on top of it, shielding the others from the blast, taking the brunt of it himself. He was seriously injured and died less than 30 minutes later. The two SEALs on either side of him were injured but survived.
During his subsequent funeral back in San Diego, as his body was being carried from the hearse to his grave site, Navy SEALs lined up on each side of the pallbearers’ route. As the coffin passed each SEAL, they slapped down the gold Trident, the SEALs badge, each had removed from his own uniform and embedded it into the wooden coffin. For nearly 30 minutes the slaps were audible from across the cemetery as nearly every SEAL on the West Coast repeated the act. It was a display that deeply moved all in attendance, including President George Bush, who remarked, “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.”
The Department of Defense announced on March 31, 2008, that Master-at-Arms 2d Class Petty Officer Michael A. Monsoor would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. U.S. President George W. Bush presented the medal to Monsoor’s parents on April 8, 2008, at a ceremony in the White House. In October 2008, Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced that DDG-1001, the second ship in the Zumwalt-class of guided missile destroyers, would be named USS Michael Monsoor in his honor.
His award narrative is below:
Petty Officer Michael A. Monsoor, United States Navy, distinguished himself through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Combat Advisor and Automatic Weapons Gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 29 September 2006. He displayed great personal courage and exceptional bravery while conducting operations in enemy held territory at Ar Ramadi Iraq.
During Operation Kentucky Jumper, a combined Coalition battalion clearance and isolation operation in southern Ar Ramadi, he served as automatic weapons gunner in a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army (IA) sniper overwatch element positioned on a residential rooftop in a violent sector and historical stronghold for insurgents. In the morning, his team observed four enemy fighters armed with AK-47s reconnoitering from roads in the sector to conduct follow-on attacks. SEAL snipers from his roof engaged two of them which resulted in one enemy wounded in action and one enemy killed in action. A mutually supporting SEAL/IA position also killed an enemy fighter during the morning hours. After the engagements, the local populace blocked off the roads in the area with rocks to keep civilians away and to warn insurgents of the presence of his Coalition sniper element. Additionally, a nearby mosque called insurgents to arms to fight Coalition Forces.
In the early afternoon, enemy fighters attacked his position with automatic weapons fire from a moving vehicle. The SEALs fired back and stood their ground. Shortly thereafter, an enemy fighter shot a rocket-propelled grenade at his building. Though well-acquainted with enemy tactics in Ar Ramadi, and keenly aware that the enemy would continue to attack, the SEALs remained on the battlefield in order to carry out the mission of guarding the western flank of the main effort.
Due to expected enemy action, the officer in charge repositioned him with his automatic heavy machine gun in the direction of the enemy’s most likely avenue of approach. He placed him in a small, confined sniper hide-sight between two SEAL snipers on an outcropping of the roof, which allowed the three SEALs maximum coverage of the area. He was located closest to the egress route out of the sniper hide-sight watching for enemy activity through a tactical periscope over the parapet wall. While vigilantly watching for enemy activity, an enemy fighter hurled a hand grenade onto the roof from an unseen location. The grenade hit him in the chest and bounced onto the deck. He immediately leapt to his feet and yelled “grenade” to alert his teammates of impending danger, but they could not evacuate the sniper hide-sight in time to escape harm. Without hesitation and showing no regard for his own life, he threw himself onto the grenade, smothering it to protect his teammates who were lying in close proximity. The grenade detonated as he came down on top of it, mortally wounding him.
Petty Officer Monsoor’s actions could not have been more selfless or clearly intentional. Of the three SEALs on that rooftop corner, he had the only avenue of escape away from the blast, and if he had so chosen, he could have easily escaped. Instead, Monsoor chose to protect his comrades by the sacrifice of his own life. By his courageous and selfless actions, he saved the lives of his two fellow SEALs and he is the most deserving of the special recognition afforded by awarding the Medal of Honor.
MASTER-AT-ARMS SECOND CLASS (SEA, AIR AND LAND) MICHAEL A. MONSOOR
UNITED STATES NAVY
For service set forth in the following
FOR CONSPICUOUS GALLANTRY AND INTREPIDITY AT THE RISK OF HIS LIFE ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY 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.
SIGNED GEORGE W. BUSH