In presenting the Medal of Honor posthumously yesterday to Petty Officer Michael Monsoor of the United States Navy, President Bush noted that September 29, 2006, the day Monsoor fell on a grenade at Ramadi, Iraq, to save the lives of two of his fellow SEALs, was Saint Michael's Day. The Christian feast honors an angel who, according to the book of Daniel, helps Israel in a time of trouble and against the prince of Persia. Much attention has been paid to the few criminals in the American armed forces and the villains of Abu Ghraib. But their defaults have been dwarfed by the heroes and heroines that the Battle of Iraq and the Battle of Afghanistan have produced, and it is fitting for the country to honor them.
Monsoor was 25 when he died. The son of a Marine and a social worker, he played high school football in Orange County, California, where he grew up. President Bush spoke yesterday of how he overcame childhood asthma, weaning himself off his inhaler to eventually make it through the rigorous SEAL training. His death came on a rooftop. The citation read at the White House yesterday says an enemy grenade bounced off his chest and landed in front of him. "Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates," the citation says.
Mr. Bush made the point yesterday that part of Mansoor's legacy is that the city of Ramadi has gone from one of the most dangerous places in Iraq to one of the most safe. It hasn't been without sacrifice. Monsoor will be mourned but also honored by Americans and doubtless Iraqis, as well, for many Saint Michael's Days to come.