There’s a phrase often used in the service for acts of selfless sacrifice – it’s called, “Jumping on the grenade,” and usually it’s a metaphor for someone who “takes one for the team.”
Sometimes – very rarely – we are exposed to the kind of grace that renders all metaphors moot. The kind of act which demonstrates the inadequacy of the symbols and sounds we use to convey meaning. Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor performed such an act of transcendant honor at such absolute personal cost:
Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor fought dozens of battles in the streets of Ramadi, shouldering his MK48 machine gun without complaint in the 130-degree heat of Iraq’s violent Anbar province.
In May 2006, only a month into his first deployment to Iraq, the 25-year-old Navy SEAL from Garden Grove, Calif., ran under fire into a street to drag to safety a wounded comrade who was shot in the leg, earning a Silver Star for his courage.
On Sept. 29, 2006, another act of valor would cost Monsoor his life — and save the lives of three comrades. For that act, he will posthumously be awarded a Medal of Honor on April 8, the White House said yesterday…
Michael Monsoor literally jumped on a grenade, literally took one for the team, and by extension for all of us.
As Monsoor manned his gun, an insurgent lobbed up a hand grenade, which hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced onto the roof.
“Grenade!” Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.
I don’t believe this is the kind of thing that you think about in the moment – the natural human tendency is to shrink in fear from certain, mortal peril. From everything you have come to know as the universe into whatever follows after. A man jumps on a grenade because privately, quietly, in a time of personal introspection he commits to the idea of sacrificing himself for his team members if it comes to it. And because it would seem mere boasting to speak of such hypothetical events – the kind of boasting SEALs don’t need to do even among themselves – I suspect such a man never tells a soul. And the first inkling we have of this profound personal committment is the instant we hear the muffled blast, and stand transformed in simultaneous horror and awe by a spectacle of pure, unadulterated love.
The highest honor we can bestow is not too much. Be proud to have trod the same earth as such men as Michael Monsoor.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that he give his life for his friends.” — John, 15:13