We celebrated the Feast Day of the Archangels last week on September 29. On that same day sixteen years ago, a Navy SEAL by the name of Michael Monsoor made the ultimate sacrifice by paying the ultimate price to save the lives of his team.
Rose Rea, the founder of Radiant and Valiant Magazines, recently joined guest host John Harper on The Drew Mariani Show to talk about the recent book she wrote about Michael with his father George, Defend Us in Battle.
The Monsoors already had two children before Michael arrived in their life: Sarah and James. So, when their third child was born, they thought about what figure they might want to name him after, and they gravitated toward someone from the Old Testament. After some deliberation, they chose Michael, named after the chief of the angels and archangels. It proved to be a very fitting name.
Michael struggled with health issues as a child and had to fight illness constantly. Specifically, he faced respiratory issues including severe asthma. But Michael was born a fighter. Instead of avoiding intense exercise that would tax his body, he took up swimming and would race his siblings to strengthen his lungs. It worked, and he ended up playing tight end for his high school football team.
Rose recalled writing about the time when Michael first knew that he wanted to be in the military. To his family, that wasn’t the surprising part. They had virtually all been in the military. The surprising part was that he wanted to be a SEAL. His family members had all been Marines, and they were surprised that he didn’t want to join them. But regardless of the difference in branch, Michael’s family supported him and loved him for his descision, especially his father.
“It was so endearing to hear the way George speaks about his son with such love, but a masculine love,” said Rose. “I love hearing him talk about his son and the memories that they have and the bond that they have.”
All of those obstacles that Michael faced growing up came to serve him well during his time in the military, particularly in Navy SEAL training. SEAL training is notoriously difficult to complete and has a 75% dropout rate. While the first two weeks of BUDS Phase 1 training are no cakewalk, the third week is what tends to weed out the most SEAL candidates.
From the Navy SEALS website:
“Hell Week consists of 5 1/2 days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. Hell Week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude, and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress, and sleep deprivation. Above all, it tests determination and desire. On average, only 25% of SEAL candidates make it through Hell Week, the toughest training in the U.S. Military. It is often the greatest achievement of their lives, and with it comes the realization that they can do 20X more than they ever thought possible. It is a defining moment that they reach back to when in combat. They know that they will never, ever quit, or let a teammate down.”
Who better to face this challenge than the namesake of St. Michael the Archangel, the “chief prince”, who literally fights the forces of hell? And who better to guide him on that path than God and his family? Michael always had a sense of quiet leadership about him, and Rose could tell that he got it from his father.
George provided the type of strong, faithful, masculine example that all Catholic fathers aspire to replicate. And it was that example that Michael followed into battle. Throughout his training, Michael found solace in the Mass and in a spiritual director. He and his peers joined the Navy because they wanted to defend Americans and their way of life against evils like the ones we witnessed on September 11, 2001. But just as there is no way to survive in combat without training, there is no way to defeat evil without practicing prayer.
Once Michael had finished BUDS, he finished parachute training, cold weather combat training, and SEAL Qualification training. In 2005, his naval rating rose and he was assigned to Delta Platoon, SEAL Team 3 with Jocko Willink and Chris Kyle. Michael’s team became an important part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and it was here that Michael faced his final trial.
During a firefight in Ramadi, Michael and two other SEALs occupied a rooftop as they defended against insurgents. An insurgent on the street below threw a grenade at Michael, striking him in the chest before bouncing onto the rooftop. Michael shouted, “Grenade!” before diving onto the explosive, covering it with his chest. His body absorbed the explosion, mortally wounding him. He died 30 minutes later. His teammates survived.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
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