Two SEALs Honored Posthumously

Tags: HeroStories

TAMPA -- One dove onto a live grenade in Iraq. He died, but his fellow SEALS lived.

The other left the safety of a craggy Afghanistan mountainside in search of a radio signal to call for help, even though he knew there were dozens of Taliban fighters in the area. He was mortally wounded, but not before he made radio contact to make sure help was on the way.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor and Lt. Michael Murphy probably never met, but they are forever together now. Their names are etched in granite at a Special Operations Command memorial at MacDill Air Force Base.

The two were remembered Monday as heroes, each having earned, with his life, the Medal of Honor, the highest award for courage the military has to offer.

Murphy, 29, was killed during a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. The Navy said Murphy was leading a four-man team looking for a key Taliban leader in the mountainous terrain near Asadabad "when they came under fire from a much larger enemy force with superior tactical position," the official citation said.

"Mortally wounded while exposing himself to enemy fire, Murphy knowingly left his position of cover to get a clear signal in order to communicate with his headquarters. While being shot at repeatedly, Murphy calmly provided his unit's location and requested immediate support for his element. He returned to his cover position to continue the fight until finally succumbing to his wounds."

Monsoor died in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, while he was on a sniper detail with three other SEALs on Sept. 29, 2006. According to the official citation, Monsoor was in a sniper hideout when an insurgent threw a fragmentation grenade into the building housing him and three other SEALS.

"The grenade hit Monsoor in the chest before falling to the ground," the citation said. "Positioned next to the single exit, Monsoor was the only one who could have escaped harm. Instead, he dropped onto the grenade to shield the others from the blast."

In an interview with fellow SEALs in California in 2006, members of Monsoor's unit remembered "Mikey." They spoke with The Associated Press under a 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."

Though the commemoration ceremony was held at MacDill Air Force Base, the two Navy SEALs weren't from Tampa; they grew up on opposite sides of the country. They had different interests.

Murphy was from New York, loved to read and graduated with honors from Penn State with degrees in political science and psychology.

He was raised on Long Island, N.Y., and excelled at ice hockey. His Navy biography said he was an avid reader with tastes that ran from the Greek historian Herodotus to Tolstoy's "War and Peace." His favorite book, the biography said, was Steven Pressfield's "Gates of Fire," about the Spartan stand at Thermopylae.

Murphy was the first Navy service member to receive the Medal of Honor in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Monsoor, 25, grew up on the West Coast. He attended Garden Grove High School in California, where he played tight end on the Argonaut football team and graduated in 1999. He enjoyed snowboarding, body boarding, spear fishing and motorcycle riding, according to the Navy biography.

"His quiet demeanor and dedication to his friends matched the 'silent warrior' SEAL mentality that was to become his calling in life," the bio said.

Monsoor already had been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions May 9, 2006, in Ramadi, when he and another SEAL pulled a team member shot in the leg to safety while under fire.

The remembrance on Monday morning drew more than 1,000 people, including Gen. David Petraeus, head of Central Command, which is based at MacDill.

A slide-show montage was preceded by the landing of three paratroopers, each carrying American flags that have flown over the Pentagon, two of which were presented to the families of the medal recipients.

It has been more than three years since Murphy was killed. Still, his father's eyes tear up when he talks about his son. As he set the wreath made of yellow daisies and carnations in front of the granite tile, Dan Murphy, who himself was wounded in Vietnam 40 years ago, kissed his fingertips before touching them to the etched stone bearing his son's name.

"We've always taught him to protect others, and that was always his nature," Dan Murphy said after the ceremony. "So, it didn't surprise us when we heard what he di