Rumor Doctor blog archive
Did SEALs pound their tridents into Michael Monsoor's casket?
By any definition, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor is a hero. In 2006, he saved his fellow SEALs by throwing his body onto a grenade. Two years later, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, which along with previous awards made him the most highly decorated servicemember for the current conflicts.
An email going around tells a touching story of how Monsoor's teammates paid tribute to him at his funeral by taking off their gold tridents and pounding them into the coffin as it passed.
"The slaps were audible from across the cemetery; by the time the coffin arrived grave side, it looked as though it had a gold inlay from all the Tridents pinned to it," the email said. "This was a fitting send-off for a warrior hero."
For the most part, this story is true, but there are some details that are wrong, so The Rumor Doctor felt obliged to tell the story correctly.
First, the email says Monsoor was an explosive ordnance technician when in fact he was a SEAL. One variation of the email claims the grenade was accidentally dropped by a SEAL, but in reality it was lobbed by an insurgent, initially hitting Monsoor in the chest and landing near two of his comrades.
President George W. Bush would later recall how Monsoor had a choice to get clear of the blast or save his buddies.
"For Mike, this was no choice at all," Bush said at Monsoor's Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. "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.”’”
Secondly, the email has a picture of a casket adorned with SEAL tridents, but the casket is not Monsoor's, said Lt. Cate Wallace, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare Command.
The casket actually belongs to Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, who was one of 16 special operators killed when their helicopter was shot down while they tried to save Lt. Michael P. Murphy's SEAL team in June 2005.
As has become tradition since 9/11, Monsoor's fellow SEALs did pound their tridents into his casket, but it didn't happen quite as portrayed in the email, Wallace, said.
"SEALs don't pound their Tridents into a moving casket, they do it when it's stationary and usually pass by in a line one at a time," Wallace said in an email.
It took nearly an hour for Monsoor's fellow SEALs to pass his casket, each one pressing his trident into the wood, Bush said at the Medal of Honor ceremony.
"And when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten," Bush said.
THE RUMOR DOCTOR'S DIAGNOSIS: The email may be inaccurate but the story of Monsoor's teammates giving him a final salute by pounding their tridents into his casket is true. Because Monsoor will never be forgotten, it is important that we remember the details of his life and death correctly. President Bush was clearly moved by Monsoor's story when he presented the Medal of Honor to Monsoor's parents. As the citation was read, a tear rolled down Bush's cheek.