SAN DIEGO – To his Navy SEAL buddies, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor will always be known as "Mikey," a fun-loving 25-year-old guy who had "a little mischievous look on his face."
It's a face they'll never forget.
On Sept. 29, 2006, while on a mission in Ramadi, Iraq, Monsoor and other members of a Navy SEAL sniper team were within a moment of death. An insurgent had tossed a grenade into their hideout, hitting Monsoor in the chest before bouncing to the floor.
In an instant, Monsoor was on the grenade, using his body to shield his comrades from the blast.
"He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," said a lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him."
For that action, President Bush on Monday announced that Monsoor will be posthumously honored on April 8 with the the nation's highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
"Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on Sept. 29, 2006," presidential press secretary Dana Perino told reporters during a briefing aboard Air Force One. The announcement came as Bush was on his way to Ukraine, Romania, Croatia and Russia in a trip built around the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania.
Two SEALs next to Monsoor were injured; another who was 10 to 15 feet from the blast was unhurt. They had been working with Iraqi soldiers providing sniper security while U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted missions in the area.
In an interview at the SEALs' West Coast headquarters in Coronado, Calif., four members of the special force remembered "Mikey" as a loyal friend and a quiet, dedicated professional.
"He was just a fun-loving guy," said a petty officer 2nd class who went through the grueling 29-week SEAL training with Monsoor. "Always got something funny to say, always got a little mischievous look on his face."
Other SEALS described the Garden Grove, Calif., native as a modest and humble man who drew strength from his family and his faith. His father and brother are former Marines, said a petty officer 2nd class.
Monsoor, a platoon machine gunner, had posthumously 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. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for his sacrifice in Ramadi.
Sixteen SEALs have been killed in Afghanistan. Eleven of them died in June 2005 when a helicopter was shot down near the Pakistani border while ferrying reinforcements for troops pursuing Al Qaeda terrorists.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.