The highest honor awarded in the military, the Medal of Honor recognizes extraordinary acts of valor. The Medal of Honor is only awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.” Michael Monsoor and Michael Murphy are two of four SEALs who have earned this distinction in the history of U.S. Navy SEALs. Both SEALs received their medals posthumously from President George W. Bush for service in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. For love of country and comrade, both gave their lives and sought no credit.
June 28, 2005 is known as the deadliest day in SEAL history since World War II. On that day in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, SEAL Michael Murphy’s actions proved that the most dire situations can give rise to the greatest heroes. Murphy was a part of a four-man team who set down on June 27, 2005 in the Korengal River Valley, one of the most dangerous six miles of scabrous shale and high desert in northern Afghanistan. Within 24 hours, Murphy’s unit was surrounded and pinned down by as many as 100 Taliban fighters. With all in his unit wounded, Murphy fought his way into open terrain to gain better transmission to call for back up. He remained in position, exposing himself to continuous attack until contact was made. His final words to headquarters were, “Thank you.” He kept engaging the enemy until he fell, mortally wounded. In the end, three of his four-man team died and the Chinook helicopter sent to rescue them was shot down. All 16 commandos on board, including eight SEALs, were killed.
“Murph” as his SEAL brothers called him, understood that a true warrior stands on principal and willingly falls in sacrifice for both his ideals and fellow man.
In May 2006, Michael Monsoor earned the Silver Star in Ramaldi by rescuing a fellow injured SEAL in a hail of machine gun fire. Throughout that sun-baked Iraqi summer and in 35 firefights, Monsoor continued to demonstrate courage and his capacity for greatness. On September 29, 2006, Monsoor made the ultimate sacrifice when he and two fellow SEALs had taken position on a rooftop in the insurgent-held sector. An incoming grenade bounced off Monsoor’s chest. Only a split-second stood between the 25-year-old Monsoor and escape. Instead of trying to save himself, he deliberately fell on the grenade and saved the lives of three fellow SEALs and three Iraqi Army soldiers.
President Bush said, “The Medal of Honor is awarded for such an act of courage that no one could rightly be expected to undertake it." Yet, those who knew Michael Monsoor were not surprised that he did.