‘Defend Us in Battle’: The Heroic Faith of Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor
Medal of Honor recipient was devoted to God and country.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” — John 15:13
He could have run, but Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor chose to lay down his life for three fellow Navy SEALs on Sept. 29, 2006 — the feast of his beloved patron, St. Michael the Archangel — when a grenade was tossed onto their rooftop post during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Just days earlier, Monsoor shared with his family how much he was looking forward to returning home. His deployment in Iraq was almost done, and he had already saved other lives during his time there. Running to preserve his life would have been understandable. Instead, Monsoor threw himself onto the grenade, using his body to shield the others from the explosion. Thirty minutes later, he succumbed to his injuries.
His father, George Monsoor, himself a Marine veteran, together with Rose Rea, whose husband is a Navy SEAL, have honored the hero with a biography, Defend Us in Battle: The True Story of MA2 Navy SEAL Medal of Honor Recipient Michael A. Monsoor.
They tell the story of how he had prepared himself since childhood — overcoming asthma, defending kids who were bullied, deepening his devotion to God, and making it through SEAL training, which pushes even the strongest men to their limits.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Monsoor received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his actions in serving his country.
Rose Rea, mother of soon-to-be seven children, shared with the Register what went into telling this incredible true story and what it meant to her personally.
Why did you write this book?
My husband was serving at SEAL Team 3 during the naval ship commissioning of the USS Michael Monsoor in 2019. He brought the program home, and when I had read just one paragraph about Michael Monsoor, I felt a “bomb” go off in my heart. I knew I needed to reach out to Michael's family about sharing his story. I instantly could feel God at work in this young, heroic man.
Why was becoming a Navy SEAL so important to Michael?
His father, George, describes him as a young boy with an unbreakable will. As he got older, he wanted to serve the country by enlisting in the Navy and was determined to become a Navy SEAL, [one of] the most elite warfighters in the U.S. military. He carried that mentality throughout his entire life. Weakness didn’t stop him; failure didn’t stop him; fear didn’t stop him. Nothing did.
How were you able to put yourself into these situations to make the readers feel like they are right there in the true story?
That credit goes to Michael’s SEAL teammates and, most importantly, my husband, who was only one BUD/S training class behind Michael and was deployed to Iraq near the same time as Michael, in a different area. Michael’s father was adamant that he would only proceed with someone who had experienced the brutality of war firsthand. George is a Vietnam veteran, and he pointed out that people who have not been to war can often glamorize the aftermath, but have no idea what it’s like unless they have been there.
I told him I would write his son’s story with him and work side by side with Michael’s teammates. I then roped my husband into the project as well. It meant so much more to us than simply a biography: It was honoring a fallen hero through the words of his own band of brothers.
Where did Michael’s motivation come from, to have risked his life to save others more than once?
After learning all about Michael’s life from his family and friends, it made perfect sense that he often tried to help others. He saw the need around him often when others could miss it. It was humble and beautiful to witness this man’s love for his fellow man in everything he did.
What do you think Michael would want to be remembered for?
One word: life. Michael absolutely loved life. His friends said he lived larger than life when he was alive. It was his love of life that drew him to serve the country, his love of life that I think inspired him to save all of those teammates during their deployment, and, ultimately, what steered his final lifesaving decisions.
How did Michael’s Catholic faith enter into his relationships and service?
It was huge. Michael stayed close to the sacraments his entire life, from school through his service in the Navy and especially operating overseas. His buddy credits Michael with converting him to the Catholic faith while they were serving together in Sicily, Italy. While in Iraq, he frequently attended Mass and confession with Navy chaplain Father Paul Halladay. Michael was named by his parents after the archangel St. Michael, and it was no coincidence that the day Michael saved his teammates on top of that rooftop, it was the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, Sept. 29, 2006.
Was writing this book personal, given that your husband is a Navy SEAL?
Absolutely. Both my husband and I felt passionately about giving our time, experience and talents to honor Michael’s legacy. We continued to view this story and all the work as a gift to his parents, George and Sally, as well as everyone involved in it. It was my joy to weave it all together into a fuller picture of who this incredible young man was for all to read. It was worth every late night and difficulty along the way.
With Veterans Day, is there anything in particular your family does to honor veterans?
Honestly, we do not do anything particular because every day is Veterans Day in our home. My husband just hit 20 years of military service — 18 in the SEAL team. He says this all of the time, that he can only do what he does because of the “giants” that came before him.
Every time he sees a veteran, he walks up to them and thanks them. Now, our sons do it. We pray daily for the souls of the SEAL teammates that my husband has had to bury too young. We pray for the Gold Star families and for all those protecting our nation willingly. One of the most impactful things, though, is the “Missing Man Table.” I encourage all to look it up. It’s a beautiful poem and dinner place setting honoring those who gave their lives for our country. It instills such gratitude!
We look forward to meeting Michael one day in heaven, and I believe wholeheartedly he’ll continue to protect soldiers and all who ask for his prayers. He fulfilled his God-given mission, but we each still have our own — and what “giants” we have to look up to in heaven who have fearlessly gone before us.