Photo courtesy BUD/S ST-3 Delta Platoon Mates
It was nearing midnight as I sat in the frigid waters of the Pacific. I was on a training operation with my platoon; we were tasked with placing an electronic listening device at the top of a radio tower. An hour and a half prior, my scout element of our SEAL platoon had been inserted by Special Warfare Combat Crew Operators via a stealth maritime assault craft. Kitted up in the latest thermal reduction cammi’s along with my armor, night vision, fins and individual weapons, I began the 800-yard swim through the kelp forests off of Point Loma, CA, to infill over the beach into the area where the radio tower stood.
The ocean was glassy as we swam through the icy water. My sole annoyance was having to intermittently untangle myself from the kelp. As we approached the rocky cliffs, we could see the small path of rubble where we needed to land; however, the swells began to build in height and frequency. We realized the calm forecast we had planned for was anything but that. We swam the next 200-yards fighting through the crashing waves of the surf. We had expected a southern current and this planning paid dividends as we hit our mark and began to ascend the rocks. Just as I released the strap of my left fin, I was swept back into the ocean by an abnormally large wave. What followed was 20 minutes of one the most horrible beatings I have ever taken in my nearly two decades serving as a Navy SEAL
During those harrowing minutes, I fought continuously to get a hand or foot hold on the smooth cliff face while getting simultaneously smashed by the crashing waves against the rocky cliffs. Just as I would gain some sort of hold, I was pulled right back out into the black, churning water.
Exhausted, bruised and bleeding, I was finally able to haul myself out of the waves, rejoin my element and complete the mission. Although just a training evolution, we SEALs approach each high-risk exercise the same way we would a real-world operation. We strive to be the best we can as individuals because the better I am in service to my brothers, the more likely it is we all come home.
On this Feast of the Archangels – especially the Archangel St. Michael, whose possibly greatest action were his words, “I will serve” – we remember Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor. These words, along with his perseverant mentality permeated the fibers of who he was. From being a young, sickly boy named after St. Michael through his service as a SEAL, he applied this principal to his entire life. This eventually culminated in his fidelity to the ultimate ideal of bringing his brothers home. Michael’s fortitude and indomitable spirit carried him through any challenge he faced. Whether it was BUD/S training to become a Navy SEAL, failure, injury or weakness, he faced them all with a steadfast resolve. Goofy, yet quiet, he remained anchored in his Catholic faith and excitedly prepared for his first deployment to war-torn Iraq in 2006. His platoon, Task Unit Bruiser with SEAL Team THREE headed to Ar Ramadi, Iraq, where they faced fire-fights almost daily. Michael’s courageous achievements during the Battle of Ramadi saved numerous teammates and earned him multiple combat medals including a Silver and Bronze Star.
Staying close to the Sacraments throughout the intense fighting, Michael always kept a positive countenance while faithfully executing the task at hand. As the deployment came to a close, he volunteered to remain for a few final missions. Seventeen years ago on this special Feast Day of the Archangels (and the feast of his namesake), Michael upheld the highest standard of charity and love of fellow man. As he was providing overwatch with three other Navy SEAL’s and multiple Iraqi Scouts, an enemy grenade was thrown onto their rooftop position. Although he was the closest to cover and could have escaped the blast, he instead used his body to shield his friends and brothers in arms. Michael succumbed to his grievous injuries thirty minutes later, having saved all souls that were present on that rooftop. For these actions, Michael A. Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2008.
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”
Michael’s full bio is available now by HarperCollins imprint Harper Horizon: Defend Us in Battle: The True Story of MA2 Navy SEAL Medal of Honor Recipient Michael A. Monsoor