To Fight and Protect: The Heroic Sacrifice of Michael Monsoor
For defense and protection in battle, generations of warriors have lifted up their prayers to Saint Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of warriors. Just like his namesake, Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor, a devout Catholic, was a faithful fighter who could always be counted upon by his comrades. As his SEAL team leader, retired Lt. Cmdr. Michael Sarraille put it, “When Mikey was to your side, you felt safe.” During combat operations in enemy held territory in the bitterly contested city of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, on September 29, 2006, the 25-year-old SEAL gave the last full measure of devotion to save his brothers-in-arms.
From their position on a roof outcropping, Sarraille recalled that an enemy “grenade came over the lip of the wall, barely cleared the wall, and hit Mikey right in the chest.” Sarraille explains that between himself, Monsoor, and fellow SEAL Doug Wallace, “Mikey probably had the greatest chance of survival. All he had to do was turn the other direction, jump and he would have lived. … But due to Mikey’s character and his quick train of thought, he knew that if he chose self-preservation, which is sometimes needed on the battlefield, Doug and I would most likely perish, and he was right.” Monsoor ultimately threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, sacrificing himself to save Sarraille and Wallace from death.
For his heroic sacrifice on September 29, which happens to be Saint Michael's feast day in the Roman Catholic Church, Monsoor was posthumously awarded the United States military’s highest decoration for valor under fire, the Medal of Honor. His citation reads:
“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 over-watch 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.”
Congressional Medal of Honor Society: Michael A. Monsoor.
Militarynews.com: I Will Defend: The Michael Monsoor Story.
Pritzker Military Museum & Library: MA2 (SEAL) Michael Monsoor.
U.S. Army: Patron Saint of Warriors Discussed.
U.S. Navy: Michael A. Monsoor.