Saturday, October 14, 2006
An elite Navy SEAL sacrificed his life to save his comrades by throwing himself on top of a grenade Iraqi insurgents tossed into their sniper hideout, fellow members of the elite force said.Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A Monsoor had been near the only door to the rooftop structure late last month when the grenade hit him in the chest and bounced to the floor, said four SEALs who spoke to reporters this week on condition of anonymity because their work requires their identities to remain secret. "He never took his eye off the grenade; his only movement was down toward it," said a 28-year-old lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him." Monsoor, a 25-year-old gunner, was killed in the September 29 explosion in the insurgent hotbed of Ramadi. He was only the second SEAL to die in Iraq since the war began. Two SEALs next to Monsoor were injured; another who was 3 to 4.5 metres from the blast was unhurt. The four had been working with Iraqi soldiers providing sniper security while US and Iraqi forces conducted missions in the area.Monsoor has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions May 9 in Ramadi, when he and another SEAL pulled a team member shot in the leg to safety while bullets pinged off the ground around them. Monsoor's funeral was held at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. He has also been submitted for an award for his actions the day he died. The first Navy SEAL to die in Iraq was Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc A Lee, 28, who was killed on August 2 in a firefight while on patrol against insurgents in Ramadi. Sixteen SEALs have been killed in Afghanistan. Eleven of them died in June last year when a helicopter was shot down near the Pakistan border while ferrying reinforcements for troops pursuing al-Qaeda militants. There are about 2,300 of the elite fighters, based in Coronado and Little Creek, Virginia. The Navy is trying to boost that number by 500 - a challenge considering more than 75 per cent of candidates drop out of training, notorious for Hell Week, a five-day stint of continual drills by the ocean broken by only four hours sleep total. Monsoor made it through training on his second attempt.