ABC’s Jennifer Duck reports: Clearly choked up, and at times wiping away his own tears, President Bush awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously at the White House Tueday to Navy SEAL Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, who was killed in Iraq in September of 2006 when he fell on a grenade to save comrades during fighting in Ramadi.
Monsoor was the fourth service member to receive the nation’s highest award for valor in the 6 1/2 years of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Bush awarded the medal in the White House’s East Room Tuesday to Monsoor’s parents.
Bush described Monsoor’s perseverance as a child, when coughing fits from severe asthma would land him in the hospital. "On some nights, his coughing fits would land him in the hospital. But Mike would not lie low for long. He strengthened his lungs by racing his siblings in the swimming pool. He worked to wean himself off his inhaler. He built himself into a superb athlete — excelling from sports like football to snowboarding,"
Many SEALs knew Monsoor by his racy car. "His teammates liked to laugh about the way his shiny Corvette would leave everybody in the dust. But deep down, they always knew Mike would never leave anybody behind when it counted," Bush said.
The president noted Monsoor had tremendous strength while fighting in Iraq. "Because he served as both a heavy machine gunner and a communications operator, he often had a double load of equipment — sometimes more than a hundred pounds worth. But under the glare of the hot desert sun, he never lost his cool."
In May of 2006 Monsoor saved a teammate’s life by risking his own and lived to tell about it. President Bush described the incident: "With bullets flying all around them, Mike returned fire with one hand, while helping pull the injured man to safety with the other. In a dream about the incident months later, the wounded SEAL envisioned Mike coming to the rescue with wings on his shoulders."
But Michael Monsoor made the ultimate sacrifice on September 29, 2006 when he saved two teammates’ lives. "Mike and two teammates had taken position on the outcropping of a rooftop when an insurgent grenade bounced off Mike’s chest and landed on the roof. Mike had a clear chance to escape, but he realized that the other two SEALs did not. In that terrible moment, he had two options — to save himself, or to save his friends. For Mike, this was no choice at all. He threw himself onto the grenade, and absorbed the blast with his body," President Bush said.
"One of the survivors put it this way: "Mikey looked death in the face that day and said, ‘You cannot take my brothers. I will go in their stead," Bush said.
"May God comfort you and may God bless America," Bush managed to choke out near the end of his tribute to Monsoor.
The Medal of Honor ceremony comes on the first of two days of Congressional testimony from Gen. David Petraeus, commander in Iraq, and Amb. Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, who are discussing the war in Iraq, now in it’s 6th year.