SEAL Killed in Iraq  Awarded the Medal of Honor

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor fought dozens of battles in the streets of Ramadi, shouldering his MK48 machine gun without complaint in the 130-degree heat of Iraq's violent Anbar province.

In May 2006, only a month into his first deployment to Iraq, the 25-year-old Navy SEAL from Garden Grove, Calif., ran under fire into a street to drag to safety a wounded comrade who was shot in the leg, earning a Silver Star for his courage.

On Sept. 29, 2006, another act of valor would cost Monsoor his life -- and save the lives of three comrades. For that act, he will posthumously be awarded a Medal of Honor on April 8, the White House said yesterday.

Monsoor "distinguished himself through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life," said an official summary of action. He is the first sailor and the third service member overall to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in the war in Iraq.

That September morning, Monsoor and a group of SEAL snipers took up position on a residential rooftop as part of an operation to push into a dangerous section of southern Ramadi. Four insurgents armed with AK-47 rifles came into view, and the SEAL snipers opened fire, killing one and wounding another. Loudspeakers from a mosque broadcast calls for insurgents to rally, and residents blocked off nearby roads with rocks.

Insurgents shot back at the SEAL position with automatic weapons from a moving vehicle and fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the building. The SEALs knew that more attacks were inevitable but continued their mission of protecting the troops clearing the area below, according to an official account.

Monsoor's commander repositioned him in a small hidden location between two SEAL snipers on an outcropping of the roof, facing the most likely route of another insurgent attack. As Monsoor manned his gun, an insurgent lobbed up a hand grenade, which hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced onto the roof.

"Grenade!" Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.

"He made an instantaneous decision to save our teammates. I immediately understood what happened, and tragically it made sense to me in keeping with the man I know, Mike Monsoor," said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, Monsoor's platoon leader in Ramadi.

Monsoor, the third of four children, played football at Garden Grove High School and joined the Navy in 2001, where he was a top performer in his SEAL training class. He graduated in 2004. Monsoor's sister Sara, a nurse, said her brother's e-mails never revealed the dangers he faced, but she knew the SEAL team was like his family. "He already had it in his head -- he would be the first one to jump in and protect," she said.

 

                        Bush Gives Medal of Honor to Navy SEAL

By JENNIFER LOVEN 4 days ago

WASHINGTON (AP) Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor had fast thinking to do when a live grenade came out of nowhere to bounce off his chest: Take the clear path to safety that he had but his comrades didn't, try to toss it safely away, or throw himself on top of it.

With barely an instant's hesitation on that Iraqi rooftop, Monsoor took the last course, sacrificing his life to save the men around him. For that, President Bush on Tuesday awarded him the Medal of Honor.

In an East Room ceremony, Bush presented the nation's highest military honor to Monsoor's still-grieving parents, Sally and George Monsoor. About 250 guests, including his sister and two brothers, fellow SEALS, other Medal winners, many friends and GOP Sen. John McCain and other members of Congress, looked on quietly.

"The Medal of Honor is awarded for an act of such courage that no one could rightly be expected to undertake it," Bush said. "Yet those who knew Michael Monsoor were not surprised when he did."

Bush has awarded the medals to 10 people during his presidency. Monsoor is only the third from the Iraq war, and Bush's lip trembled and tears streamed down his cheeks as the official citation was read with the details of his bravery.

The emotional proceedings at the White House came as the top U.S. general and diplomat in Iraq opened two days of testimony across town on Capitol Hill on the status of the war, which has killed more than 4,020 U.S. military personnel.

Gen. David Petraeus said security in Iraq is still too fragile to allow announcements of troop levels going below 140,000 before September. Bush is giving a speech on Thursday to announce whether he accepts Petraeus' recommendation to suspend troop withdrawals for 45 days after the current round completes in July. He is expected to do so.

In brief remarks, Bush told the story of Monsoor's service-oriented upbringing and determined youth.

Monsoor became a Navy SEAL, the military's most elite fighting force, in 2004.

"His teammates liked to laugh about the way his shiny Corvette would leave everybody in the dust," Bush said. "But deep down, they always knew Mike would never leave anybody behind when it counted."

By spring 2006, Monsoor was deployed to Ramadi in Iraq 's dangerous, then-al-Qaida dominated Anbar Province , as an automatic weapons gunner and communications operator a double assignment that often landed him more than 100 pounds of gear to carry in the hot desert.

  In May, Monsoor ran through heavy enemy fire to pull a wounded SEAL to safety. He earned a Silver Star, the third-highest award for combat valor, for that action.

It was only four months later, on Sept. 29, 2006, that Monsoor and his two American teammates, plus members of the Iraqi Army, were on a rooftop in a Ramadi residential area known as a stronghold for the Sunni insurgency. They were providing early warning and sniper cover for a mission aimed at trying to clear the neighborhood. 

After a long day of back-and-forth engagement and evidence that the enemy was closing them off, Monsoor and the two other SEALS moved to a confined outcropping of the roof for a better lookout position. An unseen insurgent lobbed a grenade, which hit Monsoor in the chest and landed on the floor in front of him. He yelled a warning, but quickly saw that his fellow SEALS, not positioned near the exit like he was, wouldn't be able to get clear in time. Monsoor fell onto the grenade just as it exploded, absorbing the blast with his body and dying from the injuries about 30 minutes later. Others suffered shrapnel wounds, but no one else was killed.

The Garden Grove , Calif. , native, was only 25 years old.

"Mr. and Mrs. Monsoor: America owes you a debt that can never be repaid," Bush said. "This nation will always cherish the memory of your son.

 

Woodville SEAL wins Silver Star for bravery

By ERIC ROSENBERG     Hearst Newspapers   April 9, 2008, 11:48PM  

WASHINGTON Lt. Leif Babin, a Woodville native and 1994 graduate of Monsignor Kelly High School in Beaumont, was one of 11 Navy SEALs to receive medals for bravery at a special Pentagon ceremony Wednesday.

At the ceremony in the Pentagon's central courtyard, the medals were presented to members of Navy SEAL Team 3, based in Coronado , Calif. , by Adm. Eric Olson, chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Babin received the Silver Star, the third-highest military award for valor, for his actions on Aug. 2, 2006, when his unit fought militants in the Iraqi city of Ramadi .

Babin received the medal "'for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy" while leading "a combined clearance operation in an enemy-controlled area of Ramadi," according to the citation.

When he and his fellow SEALs came under fire while on a building roof, "Babin dashed across the roof to reach a wounded comrade and immediately called for casualty evacuation and fire support," the citation said.

As three other SEALs provided covering fire, Babin moved directly into the enemy's line of fire and carried the wounded SEAL to safety. 

In another clearance operation the same day, a fellow SEAL was killed and Babin was wounded.

The citation said Babin "continued to direct clearance of the target building, securing it and ensuring that his mortally wounded man and the rest of his unit were safely extracted."

The 11 SEALs lined up onstage under a large white awning as a Navy official read the medal citations.

Babin a Naval Academy graduate said "it was an incredible thing to be a part of" the medals ceremony.

"It's an honor working with these guys," he said in an interview. "My award is simply recognition of the effort of my platoon that I had the honor of leading."