WASHINGTON (NNS) -- President Bush posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor April 8 to Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, a Navy SEAL whose mortal sacrifice in Iraq saved the lives of two fellow SEALs and several Iraqi soldiers.
The fallen SEAL's parents, George and Sally Monsoor, accepted the honor on their son's behalf during a White House ceremony. The Medal of Honor, awarded for gallantry in combat exceeding the call of duty, is the nation's highest military decoration.
"In September 2006, Michael laid down his life for his brothers in arms," Bush said. "Today, we remember the life of this faithful Navy SEAL, and on behalf of a grateful nation, we will present Michael Mansoor's family with the Medal of Honor that he earned."
Monsoor, a 25 year-old machine gunner with SEAL Team 3, was providing security at a sniper lookout post on Sept. 29, 2006, in Ramadi, Iraq, when a fragmentation grenade hit his chest and bounced to the floor. Positioned next to the single exit, only Monsoor could have escaped harm.
Instead, he threw himself onto the grenade. Monsoor used his body to absorb the blast and shield two nearby SEALs. The SEALs and eight Iraqi soldiers survived, some with wounds, others unscathed. Monsoor died a half hour later.
"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,"'" said Bush, quoting one of the SEALs saved by Monsoor.
In remarks today, the president characterized the petty officer as an unlikely candidate for the SEALs. As a child, he suffered from asthma attacks and coughing fits that routinely landed him in the hospital, Bush said.
But the asthmatic child resolved to wean himself off his inhaler, strengthening his lungs by challenging his siblings in swimming races. The determined child grew into a young man who eventually completed SEAL training, which Bush called the "ultimate test of physical endurance."
"Less than a third of those who begin this training become SEALs," he said. "But Mike would not be denied a spot."
The maritime component of U.S. Special Operations Command, Navy SEALs are expert reconnoiters and stealth warriors, often performing clandestine operations that larger forces cannot conduct undetected. Today Monsoor became the first SEAL to earn the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq and the second SEAL to receive the award since Sept. 11, 2001.
Monsoor will be inducted tomorrow into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, where his name will be engraved alongside some 3,445 recipients of the nation's highest honor.
The petty officer previously was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with combat "V" device, and a Purple Heart before becoming the fourth servicemember to receive the Medal of Honor since the beginning of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Awarded by the president in the name of Congress, the Medal of Honor was created in 1861 as a personal award of valor for members of the Navy. Today, every service branch confers the rare honor upon those who distinguish themselves "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life."
"The Medal of Honor is awarded for an act of such courage that no one could rightly be expected to undertake it," the president said. "Yet those who knew Michael Monsoor were not surprised when he did."
For more information on Petty Officer Monsoor, visit www.navy.mil/moh/monsoor/index.html.