Saturday, May 16, 2009

Michael Monsoor and duty

Tonight I watched the Mike Huckabee show only because the White Sox had played a day-game which found me surfing for a few minutes.  The first segment was about Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, the Navy Seal and posthumous Medal of Honor recipient, who instinctively fell on a grenade in Ramadi, Iraq in 2006 in order to save his fellow soldiers.

Monsoor's sister was interviewed and gave a poignant biography of a young man who dedicated his life to the service of family and nation.  He was a loving brother, son and uncle who never hesitated to do the right thing, volunteering for military service and attaining additional training in the special forces.

Lt Commander Seth Stone summarized the details of the fateful day.  Just days before he was to come home after a long deployment, Monsoor's unit came under attack and the highly trained Seal was hit with a live hand grenade tossed by insurgents in the midst of a fire fight.  Instead of running for cover, which was still an option, he covered the live ordnance to shield his comrades standing a few feet away.  The platoon mates, who had wives and children at home, were saved by the heroic act of Michael Monsoor.

I am a 48 year old man who has had a wonderful life.  Michael Monsoor was 25 years old when he died.  I try to remember what I thought 20 years ago; what my world view was; my goals; my feelings of what the future would bring.  I remember that I trusted the system... the status quo, and I imagine that Michael Monsoor did likewise. Maybe not so much naively, but I remember that I respected older wiser adults who counseled me to work hard and trust that rewards will come based on merit.  I trusted that my work would not be in vain, and it has not been.

Now I am the older, supposedly wiser, adult.  When I see stories like Michael Monsoor's I cannot help but feel that my responsibility is to ensure that trust for the system, our system, is not misplaced.  Michael Monsoor, and countless other heroes, bought into this nation's mission, a mission that my tax money has suppported and a mission to which my acquiescence is implied.  Michael Monsoor is not here today largely because of the status quo to which I am a party.  And it breaks my heart.

Lt. Commander Stone said something that truly overwhelmed me.  He said that Petty Officer Monsoor, like all Navy Seals, was trained to care for his brothers.  He was trained to care for his brothers.  And he was merely acting in accordance with his training.

How many of us can say that we have been trained to care for others?  How much of what we do is consistent with any modicum of such training.  I have sat by to watch my nation elect and support leaders who have not exhibited anything close to the notion of caring.

If we cared for Michael Monsoor as much as he cared for us, would we have blindly entered a war that was as unjustified and as unnecessary as the war in Iraq?  Would we have sat by to watch as that war was waged so imprudently?  I have no idea about the political views Michael Monsoor or his family, and I am certainly not trying to co-opt his death to elevate my soapbox.  My hunch is that his sister supports the war since she was so gracious to Mr. Huckabee who has been a staunch supporter of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and I can respect Ms. Monsoor's stance regardless.

I remember the Tehran, Iran US embassy attack in 1979 and remember the rage and know that my 18 year old self would have run-- not walked-- to the nearest military recruitment office if a war had broken out over that greivous action.  At that time the sense of duty to my tribe likely would have overwhelmed my latent wisdom about the situation and my future could have been much different.  I was fortunate. The wise men of my nation decided not to wage war in 1979 and the situation resolved peacefully when I was was ready to act violently.  I joke that Jimmy Carter saved my life, but it's not a joke... his wisdom saved the lives of countless people-- men, women and children-- who would have needlessly died had a justified shooting war broken out.

I wonder where the wise men are now?

I do not cast blame on anyone else in this travesty, and the loss of any man is indeed a travesty.  I am supposedly one of my tribe's wise men now, but for all my ersatz wisdom I did not learn the lesson that Officer Monsoor, who acted instinctively based on his training, had learned even before his 25th birthday.  From the account of his life, there is no doubt that Petty Officer Monsoor would repeat his self-less act of caring for his teammates again and again if faced with that choice again. 

The nagging issue I continue to have is that I did not care for Michael Monsoor like he cared for his platoon.  The war that took his life was waged on my watch.  Unlike the young Navy Seal, I have not been trained to care for my brother.  And I let Michael Monsoor down.

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