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Medal of Honor goes to SEAL who saved 3 comrades

| Tuesday, April 1, 2008

SAN DIEGO -- An elite Navy SEAL who threw himself on top of a grenade in Iraq to save his comrades will be posthumously awarded the nation's highest military tribute, a White House spokeswoman said Monday.

The Medal of Honor will be awarded to Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor. His family will receive the medal during a White House ceremony April 8.

Monsoor is the fifth person to receive the honor since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on Sept. 29, 2006," press secretary Dana Perino told reporters during a briefing aboard Air Force One as President Bush headed to Europe for a NATO summit.

Monsoor was part of a sniper security team in Ramadi with three other SEALs and eight Iraqi soldiers, according to a Navy account. An insurgent fighter threw the grenade, which struck Monsoor in the chest before falling in front of him.

Monsoor then threw himself on the grenade, according to a SEAL who spoke to The Associated Press in 2006 on condition of anonymity because his work requires his identity to remain secret.

"He never took his eye off the grenade; his only movement was down toward it," said a 28-year-old lieutenant, who suffered shrapnel wounds of both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him."

Two SEALs next to Monsoor were injured; another who was 10 feet to 15 feet from the blast was unhurt. Monsoor, from Garden Grove, Calif., was 25 at the time.

Monsoor, a platoon machine gunner, had received the Silver Star, the third-highest award for combat valor, for his actions pulling a wounded SEAL to safety during a May 9, 2006, firefight in Ramadi.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for his sacrifice in Ramadi.

In other Iraq devlopments:

• Rockets fell on the Green Zone and random machine gun fire rang out yesterday in the southern city of Basra as Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr sought to rein in his militia after a week of battles that claimed about 400 lives.

The peace deal between al-Sadr and Iraqi government forces -- said to have been brokered in Iran -- calmed the violence but left the cleric's Mahdi Army intact and Iraq's U.S.-backed prime minister politically battered and humbled within his own Shiite power base.

• The flare-up in violence in Shiite areas of southern Iraq and Baghdad has yet to alter U.S. plans to withdraw more combat forces this spring, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday.

Gates, speaking to reporters traveling with him from Brussels to the Danish capital, offered a mildly upbeat assessment of the Iraqi government's military intervention in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

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