WASHINGTON — A tear rolled down President Bush’s cheek as the citation for Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor was read Tuesday in the East Room of the White House.
Monsoor, a Navy SEAL, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Tuesday for jumping on a grenade to save his buddies.
“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,”’” Bush said Tuesday.
Monsoor is the fourth servicemember to be awarded the Medal of Honor in the global war on terror.
Like Monsoor, the other three servicemembers received the award posthumously: Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, and Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, who was also a SEAL.
Monsoor had previously been awarded the Silver Star for dragging a wounded SEAL to safety while under fire. With the Medal of Honor, he is the most highly decorated servicemember in the war on terror.
Bush recalled Tuesday how Monsoor suffered from asthma as a child, but he strengthened his lungs by swimming to become a stellar athlete.
Eventually, Monsoor would take on the extreme physical challenge of Navy SEAL training, determined to make it, Bush said.
And on Sept. 29, 2006, Monsoor would lay down his life for his fellow SEALs.
“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,” Bush said.
Monsoor was in Ramadi when an insurgent lobbed a grenade onto the roof where Monsoor and his team were positioned. It hit Monsoor in the chest before bouncing to the ground, according to a summary of his actions provided by the Navy.
“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,” the summary of action said.
Monsoor had a chance to escape, but he knew that the other SEALs did not, so he threw himself on the grenade, Bush said on Tuesday.
“In that terrible moment, he had two options: To save himself or to save his friends,” Bush said. “For Mike, there was no choice at all.”
Bush’s upper lip began to tremble after he told Monsoor’s parents that the United States owes them a debt that cannot be repaid.
His voice began to break as he said: “And this nation will always honor the sacrifice he made. May God comfort you. May God Bless America.”
President Bush's remarks about Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor