The Heroism of Michael Monsoor

 On June 18th, more than a thousand people came together on the bank of the Kennebec River to both celebrate the christening of the newest Navy ship built at Bath Iron Works and honor the man for whom it’s named.

 The USS Michael Monsoor is named after Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor, who heroically dove on an insurgent’s grenade during combat in Iraq in 2006, shielding three fellow SEALs and eight Iraqi Army soldiers from the blast. He later died from his wounds, but his selfless bravery and his sacrifice lives on to this day. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in recognition of his remarkable courage and sacrifice.

 Michael Monsoor is a hero with a capital ‘H’ because he knowingly and unflinchingly gave up his life to protect others. When the grenade was thrown onto the roof that day, it hit him in the chest and bounced to the ground. Before he dove on it, he shouted, ‘Grenade!’

 What that tells us is something special about this moment in time – that his actions were knowing and deliberate. He was completely conscious of the sacrifice he was about to make. Reading and rereading his story and thinking about it made me reflect about what it means to be a hero. 

 It seems to me there are two elements that are demonstrated by Michael Monsoor’s action: one is sacrifice, and the second is love. Love isn’t something you often hear spoken by politicians involving warships – but love is part of heroism. At the christening, Senator Collins quoted John 15: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ And that’s exactly what happened in this case.

 But there is a third aspect to heroism that is of equal significance in this story, and that is inspiration and teaching. Heroism teaches us how to act, how to think, how to be. Indeed, it teaches us how to love.

 Few of us will find ourselves on a roof in wartime or on a hill at Gettysburg. But does that mean that none of us can be heroes? That we’re merely bystanders while certain great people act on our behalf? I don’t think so.

 I think we all have opportunities to be heroes – perhaps with a small ‘h’ – each day in our lives and in our relationships with our fellow citizens. A hero of mine, for example, is the late Leon Gorman, the former President of L.L.Bean. He’s a hero not because of the success he had in business, but because every Wednesday he went to Preble Street in Portland and cooked breakfast and served it to homeless people. He made a sacrifice of his time and effort, and he did it out of love.

 Another hero of mine is a former high school classmate, who, in the 1960s, led by example and helped welcome the first African American students to our high school. In a tense moment that could have easily turned negative, this young man extended his hand in a gesture of kindness that I will never forget.

 Michael Monsoor made the ultimate sacrifice, and he too did it for love. But he was not a hero. He is a hero. Because the inspiration, the education, and the guidance he provided to all of us is going to live as long as the USS Michael Monsoor sails the seas of the world.

 

 I want to thank the people at Bath Iron Works who built that ship, and the people who will sail it. But above all, I want to thank Michael Monsoor for teaching us what it means to be a hero. Godspeed to the mighty ship that bears his name.