US Navy Seal, Michael Monsoor and the Congressional Medal of Honor, the US Military’s highest award for gallantry in battle, posthumously awarded. (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia)
Occupying around 77 acres of a gently sloping hillside that faces the pristine blue of the Pacific Ocean, the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is a US Federal Military Cemetery that has the city of San Diego, California and the San Diego Bay on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. It is administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you stand up straight, anywhere on it’s western flank and look out through a clump of trees at the bottom, you will see the Pacific Ocean extending until eternity. The scene is so picturesque that it simply takes your breath away and leaves you trying to form the words, any words.
The Pacific, viewed from the Fort Rosecrans Cemetery. The aircraft carrier, USS Midway is seen in the distance. (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia)
In Block-U, Plot-437 of the cemetery there is a grave that usually always has fresh bouquets and flowers around it, even after 8 years have gone by. And to the old woman who lies curled up on her side, facing the gravestone, her hands cradling it like as if it was a little child, it does not seem like 8 years. It seems like yesterday.
The remains in Plot-437 are that of Master-at-Arms Second Class, Navy Seal and Machine Gunner, Michael Monsoor and that woman who never misses a day to be by his side is Sally Monsoor, his mother.
On September 29, 2006, at the town of Ramadi in Iraq, Monsoor’s platoon engaged four insurgents in a firefight, killing one and injuring another. Anticipating further attacks, Monsoor, three SEAL snipers and three Iraqi Army soldiers took up a rooftop position. Meanwhile, civilians aiding the insurgents blocked off the streets. They were trapped. A nearby mosque began broadcasting a message for citizens to get together and finish off the Americans and the Iraqi soldiers.
Monsoor was positioned at a spot that was close to a doorway, the only escape route from there and the others were bunched up behind him. Suddenly a grenade came sailing through the air, struck Monsoor on the chest and fell to the floor right next. Monsoor yelled “Grenade!” and dived to cover the device with his body. The grenade exploded seconds later and Monsoor’s body absorbed most of the force of the blast. He died 30 minutes later. The others survived.
In another twist of cruel irony, Monsoor’s parents attended a ceremony in 2008 where they received on his behalf, the US Military’s highest decoration for valor, The Congressional Medal of Honor, from the hands of the man who is as directly responsible for their son’s death as if he had lobbed that grenade himself – George W Bush.
Now, 8 years on, Ramadi is once again under fire as it waits in queue to be the next town to fall under the spell of an evil that seems to flourish with impunity. There is no one on that rooftop this time, except for the harsh desert wind that carries with it those crazed yells of men with their faces wrapped in their keffiyehs, screaming murderously at the top of their voices about how God has taught them to kill.
Perhaps they have a different God, one who listens. Or perhaps it is us. We are being punished for not showing the same blind conviction that they show, when they cry ‘Allah-o-Akbar!’ (God is Great)
I decided to do a mini-poll. I asked seven American colleagues if they had ever heard of Michael Monsoor. Not one of them had. I am pretty sure that if you were to stop people on the sidewalk in any American city and ask them that very same question – ‘have you heard of Michael Monsoor?’, you would most likely draw a blank. The person you polled might have a ‘support our troops’ bumper sticker on his car though. That is the current fashion – an overt sign of one’s patriotic zeal.
Have we (America and the world at large) really benefited from Michael Monsoor’s sacrifice?