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