March 17, 2008 By Gidget Fuentes, Staff writer
SAN DIEGO — A California-based SEAL who threw his body on a grenade to save his comrades in Iraq will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor, a Defense Department official has confirmed.
Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor, of Garden Grove, Calif., was holed up on the roof of a Ramadi house with three other SEALs on Sept. 29, 2006, when an insurgent grenade landed nearby.
Monsoor, a 25-year old with SEAL Team 3, grabbed the grenade and clutched it to his chest. The blast killed him, but his actions, officials said at the time, saved the men on the rooftop.
Monsoor will be the second member of the Navy to receive the Medal of Honor since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, and the first sailor to receive it for combat in Iraq.
Michael Fumento, who’s written about Monsoor and combat operations in Ramadi, reported on his Internet blog over the weekend that Monsoor’s family would receive the posthumous award on the fallen SEAL’s behalf during a White House ceremony April 8.
A Defense Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the award had been approved.
“We understand the decision has been made to give that award,” the official said Monday. However, it’s not clear when the medal would be presented by President Bush, as is tradition, and the White House hasn’t yet made any announcement.
“[The date is] very likely to change,” the Pentagon official said.
A spokeswoman at the Navy Office of Information referred questions to the White House. A call to the White House press office was not immediately returned.
Monsoor, a platoon machine gunner, had received the Silver Star, the third-highest award for combat valor, for his actions pulling a wounded SEAL to safety during a May 9, 2006, firefight in Ramadi.
The Medal of Honor would be the second awarded to a Navy SEAL since 2001.
Last year, the family of the late Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a SEAL officer from Long Island, N.Y., received the medal during an Oct. 22 White House ceremony. Murphy was killed June 28, 2005, along with two other teammates, in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains when their four-man team battled a larger force of Taliban fighters. Eight other Navy SEALs and eight special operations soldiers with a quick-reaction force died when their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down.
Murphy is the only service member so far awarded the Medal of Honor for combat operations in Afghanistan.
Only two other Medals of Honor have been awarded, so far, and both posthumously for combat heroics during military operations in Iraq.
The first was Army Sergeant 1st Class Paul R. Smith, who died during an April 4, 2003, firefight with insurgent fighters near Baghdad International Airport. Smith was noted for his bravery and quick actions to organize a hasty defense and counter attack during which he fired anti-tank weapons, tossed hand grenades, mounted an armored personnel carrier to fire its .50-caliber machine gun and evacuate three wounded soldiers before he was felled by enemy fire. Officials credited him with killing as many as 50 enemy forces.
Monsoor’s actions closely parallel that of Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, a machine gunner from Scio, N.Y., the second service member to receive the medal for combat actions in Iraq.
Dunham, 22, took his Kevlar helmet and muffled a grenade dropped by an insurgent fighting with him and his fire team in a house near Husaybah on April 14, 2004. He died a week later, April 22, at National Naval Medical Center Bethesda, Md. His family received the medal during a Jan. 11, 2007, ceremony at the White House.