Ex-Navy SEAL Jocko Willink: Remembering Michael Monsoor, who was killed in action saving three teammates

On September 29, 2006, in the war-torn city of Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor, or “Mikey” as we called him, smothered a grenade with his body to save three of his teammates. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

As his Task Unit Commander, I was asked to speak at a ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., where his parents were presented with the Medal of Honor Flag. This is what I said:

“Ladies and gentlemen.  It is obviously very humbling to be here today, as it was humbling to be on the battlefield of Ramadi with my fellow SEALs and 2/28 Brigade Combat Team, the Iron Soldiers, and then 1/1 AD, the Ready First Combat Team, which was formed up by our brothers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines and included such hallowed units as the 1st of the 506th Band of brothers, the 1-37 Bandits, and the 3/8 Marines.

WHAT RUDDERLESS MILLENNIALS COULD LEARN FROM NAVY SEAL MICHAEL MONSOOR -- WHO GAVE HIS LIFE FOR OTHERS

I met Mike Monsoor when he checked into SEAL Team Three as a new, highly-motivated young frogman. As we trained and prepared to deploy to Iraq, everyone learned that Mike was an incredible person. He was gifted at everything he did, hard-working, funny, and selfless. He was the ultimate teammate. The ultimate friend.

When Mike died, a picture of him circulated the news. It showed Mike and his platoon mates in the war-torn streets of Ramadi, shrouded in a mist of greenish-yellow smoke, which was used to mask their movement from the enemy. That picture says so much. Mike’s gun is at the ready. His face is calm, almost smiling—despite the obvious chaos and danger around him.

Ramadi at the time was the epicenter of the insurgency in Iraq, a city filled with peril. The hardened enemy was bent on destruction; they fought with ruthlessness, constantly on the attack with machine guns, mortars, grenades, and IEDs. Brave men died or were wounded every day. And every day, brave men continued to push forward, into the fray. For those of us who were there, that picture of Mike captures all of this.

In the picture, his brother SEALs are nearby—but Mikey is out front. I have looked at this picture over and over again and it speaks to me. As someone that had the pleasure of knowing Mikey as a friend, and had the honor of serving with him on the battlefield, this photograph tells me a story.

As I look at this picture, I hear a voice in a humble but confident tone. This voice says to me:

I am Michael Monsoor.

I am patrolling through the streets of Ramadi.

It is a city devastated by war. Bullet holes cover the rubbled buildings.

Burned out cars litter the street.

I am walking just behind my point man.

I am ready.

My eyes sting from the sweat.

My gun and gear are heavy.

But these things do not bother me.

There is no comfort here.

But this is the life I have chosen.

And there is no place I would rather be.

I am Michael Monsoor.

I pray and I believe.

My Faith is my shelter.

My Faith is my strength.

Fear thrives in this place.

But fear is no match for my Faith. Faith conquers all.

“The word of the Lord proves true;

He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him”

Lord, protect my brothers above all else.

You have made me ready to protect them.

I am Michael Monsoor. I am far away from home.

I miss my family.

I miss my mother, my father, my sister, and my brothers.

Everything I am is rooted in them.

I want to hold my nephews and nieces again.

I want to make them smile and laugh.

But I am far way from home.

Instead, I smile at the Iraqi children when we pass them by.

When we encounter Iraqi families, I treat them with respect and dignity.

I know the importance of family,

Because there is nothing more important to me than my family.

I am Michael Monsoor.

I love my country, my fellow SEALs, and the men fighting alongside us.

The men fighting alongside us in the streets are infantrymen—grunts.

I know these grunts are not just Soldiers and Marines, but fathers and brothers and sons.

I know because my father and brother were also grunts—proud Marine riflemen.

We are fighting a determined enemy.

But we are strong. Our strength is our brotherhood.

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, fighting together.

A brotherhood bound by sweat and blood and tears.

Together, we live in dust and dirt and filth.

And death. Death is everywhere. Many of my brothers have fallen.

Marc is gone.

But we fight on—for the men to our left and right—we fight on.

I am so proud to be a part of this Band of Brothers.

I am Michael Monsoor.

I am ready.

Forged by Faith and Family.

Molded by Belief and Brotherhood.

I have lived life to its fullest.

I have not looked back.

I leave nothing but love.

And I have No Regrets.

I am Michael Monsoor.

I am the Frogman—on the high ground—

And I have given everything: for you.”

On January 26, 2019, the U.S. Navy commissioned a ship named the USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001). I and the other members of SEAL Team Three, Task Unit Bruiser, had the honor of participating in the commissioning ceremony.

190126-N-XN177-1481 SAN DIEGO (Jan. 26, 2019) The crew of the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) brings the ship to life during its commissioning ceremony, Jan. 26, 2019. Michael Monsoor is the second Zumwalt-class destroyer to enter the fleet. It is the first Navy combat ship named for fallen Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released)

190126-N-XN177-1481 SAN DIEGO (Jan. 26, 2019) The crew of the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) brings the ship to life during its commissioning ceremony, Jan. 26, 2019. Michael Monsoor is the second Zumwalt-class destroyer to enter the fleet. It is the first Navy combat ship named for fallen Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released)

And while there is no way that a steel and iron ship can ever replace the flesh and blood that was Michael Monsoor, at the same time, there is no more fitting memorial to him than a warship. A warship that proudly bears his name.

And in this ship—and in its crew—Mikey’s spirit will live on.

Through this ship: Michael Monsoor will still represent the very best our country has to offer.

He will inspire the crew, just as he inspired his teammates.

190126-N-XN177-1115 SAN DIEGO (Jan. 26, 2019) Sailors stand in formation during the commissioning ceremony for the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001), Jan. 26, 2019. Michael Monsoor is the second Zumwalt-class destroyer to enter the fleet. It is the first Navy combat ship named for fallen Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released)

190126-N-XN177-1115 SAN DIEGO (Jan. 26, 2019) Sailors stand in formation during the commissioning ceremony for the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001), Jan. 26, 2019. Michael Monsoor is the second Zumwalt-class destroyer to enter the fleet. It is the first Navy combat ship named for fallen Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released)

He will safeguard our families, as he safeguarded his own family.

And just as Mikey Monsoor did, the USS Michael Monsoor will go forward, willingly into harm’s way—and will stand tall without hesitation or regrets and face down evil and malevolence, saying boldly to the world: I WILL DEFEND.

That is Mikey Monsoor.

And we will never forget him.