Monday, March 31, 2008

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor: American Hero

It's a movie cliché: grenade falls among soldiers; designated Hero flings self on grenade; grenade goes off; cue mood music.

It's also something that actually happens.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor receives the Congressional Medal of Honor1 posthumously, for saving the lives of others by sacrificing his own.

Monsoor was with a SEAL team, working with Iraqi soldiers to provide sniper security in Ramadi, when a grenade bounced off his chest and landed near him. He dropped on the grenade. Two SEALs near him were injured, another, about a dozen feet away, wasn't.
  • "He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," ... "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him."
    (a lieutenant who got shrapnel wounds to both legs that day)
  • "Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on Sept. 29, 2006"
    (presidential press secretary Dana Perino)
  • "He was just a fun-loving guy," ... "Always got something funny to say, always got a little mischievous look on his face."
    (a petty officer 2nd class who went through SEAL training with Monsoor) gives a sort of thumbnail biography of Michael A. Nomsoor: "Other SEALS described the Garden Grove, Calif., native as a modest and humble man who drew strength from his family and his faith. His father and brother are former Marines, said a 31-year-old petty officer 2nd class.
"Prior to his death, Monsoor had already demonstrated courage under fire. He has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions May 9 in Ramadi, when he and another SEAL pulled a team member shot in the leg to safety while bullets pinged off the ground around them."

There's more detail at - Michael A. Monsoor.

"Monsoor" joins thousands of other American names in the list of Medal of Honor recipients, including:
Update April 1, 2008
(No, this is not an April Fool prank.)

I've been more aware of the surname "Monsoor" since writing this post, and have noticed some references to Michael Monsoor's background on the Web. For the most part, these have been quite positive, and sometimes curious.

One which caught my attention was a comment left on another blog's post: "I am moved by Michael Monsoor's bravery in combat and my condolences go out to his family.
"Monsoor is a Muslim name. I would like to know if Michael Monsoor was, or his family is, Muslim."

The person who wrote this expressed a reasonable curiosity about Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor's family and background. "Monsoor is a Muslim name," however, shows what I believe to be a common misunderstanding of Islam, Muslims, and culture.

Monsoor is a Middle Eastern family name. There are Monsoors in Lebanon, for example.

Although many Muslims are in Lebanon, that doesn't make Monsoor a Muslim name. For example, Schmidt is a German name. Quite a few Germans are Christians. That doesn't make "Schmidt" a Christian name, although some might assume that a Schmidt would be Christian.

Why does the name Monsoor 'sound' Muslim? Islam has been identified with Middle Eastern nationalities and ethnic groups. That doesn't necessarily mean that all people with Middle Eastern names are Muslims, though.

Back to Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor: His given name is "Michael." That name is traced back to Hebrew, and in the Christian Bible is the name of one of the archangels. Offhand, I'd say that it's an odd name for a Muslim to have.

But, stranger things have happened.

And all of this misses an important point. Monsoor is an American family name: just like O'Hare, Schwinghammer, Nguyen, Nakamura, Corradino, Bashir, and Rangasammy. And, of course, Smith.

It doesn't matter what sort of service was done at Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor's funeral. He's an American, and Americans can all be proud to be part of his country.
Quotes from Medal of Honor background from 1The Congressional Medal of Honor: the highest military award in America. Congress created the Medal of Honor in 1862, and tweaked it in 1918 and 1963.

New post on Michael A. Monsoor, at "Michael Monsoor to Receive Posthumus Medal of Honor" (April 2, 2008)

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.


Unknown said...

Ralph Nader is an Arab American. Most people are not aware of that. Michael Monsoor's name is a Middle Eastern surname, though not all Monsoors are Muslim. But Hebrew names are common in Arabic, for example, Moses is Musa, Abraham is Ibrahim, Jesus is Isa, Mary is Maryam, John is Yahya, Gabriel is Jibril, etc. Islam claims to be part of the same religio-spiritual tree as Judaism and Christianity. I have encountered a number of Arab Americans with "American" Hebrew-Christian names but their surnames indicate their ethnic origins.

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for the insights and information.

Although, with a name like "Nader:" what else?? Chinese?! (I know: "Nader" isn't a name that's come up in American culture very often, except as the consumer crusader's surname.)

I appreciate the background - names and their meaning are one of my interests.

I particularly appreciate the 6 pairs of names. "John" has traveled quite a bit: "John," "Juan," "Ivan," for starters.

As for "Islam claims to be part of the same religio-spiritual tree as Judaism and Christianity." I'd say it's a bit more than a claim. I've read about Ibrahim/Abraham, and know a little history.

About the " 'American' Hebrew-Christian names" - I may be reading more into that statement than is warranted.

Although I acknowledge that every culture places limitations on behavior, including naming conventions, I wish that American culture was more open to minority names. For example, my wife and I decided, with some regret, to reject "Kasper" and "Brunhilde" as names - because they 'sound funny' to most Americans.

Finally, if you run into an online resource that addresses the naming of names and ancestry, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave another comment here.

Brian H. Gill said...


Good point. I'll expand it a bit: Not all Arabs are Muslims, not all Muslims are Arabs - and not all Germans are Lutherans.

Thanks for the input.

Unknown said...

Arab Americans are mostly Christian in the United States. Most Muslims in America are either South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, Afghan) or African American.

I never claimed he was Muslim. Most likely he was of the Christian faith.

But I find it nice that this sailor was Middle Eastern of Arab ethnicity. I'm part Persian (Iranian/Afghan), and a Navy veteran.

The war on terror is about a war of ideology. My family are Shia Muslim, but Muqtada al-Sadr does not represent me or the people in my family who are Muslim.

Since 9/11, I've been more sensitive about media representation concerning Middle Eastern and Muslim people in general. With talk of possible war with Iran, another front on the Bush-led "War on Terror" does concern me personally with family still in the Islamic Republic.

The problems confronting the Muslim world are not merely ideological in my opinion. Women's education, proper family planning, economic opportunities, and accountable political regimes are sorely lacking in many parts of the Muslim world.

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for coming back with a comment.

I hope I didn't give the impression that I took sides on what, if any, faith Michael Anthony Monsoor had.

Something that gives me hope that there is still common sense somewhere in America is that there is precious little anywhere - particularly in the news - about Monsoor's ethnicity or religion.

I'll get back to that.

Gustavo, I'm glad you shared some of your family background and experience.

I'm proud of my Norwegian, Irish, and even the Scots-Irish, roots (and tubers). But, despite being a sort of northwestern-European stew, I'm an American.

America is, or should be, about something besides ethnicity: and by now we should realize that ethnicity and religion are at best loosely connected.

I'm taking the liberty of quoting from an earlier post ("Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor: American Hero" (March 31, 2008, updated April 1, 2008):

"...And all of this misses an important point. Monsoor is an American family name: just like O'Hare, Schwinghammer, Nguyen, Nakamura, Corradino, Bashir, and Rangasammy. And, of course, Smith.

"It doesn't matter what sort of service was done at Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor's funeral. He's an American, and Americans can all be proud to be part of his country."

Anonymous said...

I just read this post
Michael Mansoor is of lebanese descent and is a Maronite Catholic. Lebanon had before the Civil war that broke in 1976 almost 50% chrisitians. However now the % is around 30-35% christians. I am Lebanese American Maronite Catholic.

Ralph Nader is First Generation Lebanese American.

Lebanon have three saints proclaimed by the Vatican and two more are in process of being saints

It is important to note that Lebanon original language was Syriac/Aramaic. Arabs came through their Conquest and brought Islam to Lebanon. Lebanon is a Mix Country in origins and faith.


Anonymous said...

I am of English heritage but am always interested in most cultural issues. I knew a Mansour back in my youth days and have always figured it was Lebanese. My soccer mentor in California was Orthodox Palestinian and taught me much about the Middle East and many of the anthropological issues of the region. He confirmed that while both Muslims and Christians use the name, it is probably Christian and from the Philistine culture, and again, probably Lebanese which we now find out is correct. As well, very interesting is the probability that Monsoor is a derivative of Mansur and means "victorious". Quite fitting for a man like Mike Monsoor!

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for the background.

And yes, Lebanon does have a deep and complex history.

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for sharing that. And, I'm glad to see a comment from someone who shares my interest in the meaning and origin of names.

Anonymous said...

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous of February 23, 2010,

That Wikipedia article is about Al-Mansur, Almanzor or Abu Ja'far Abdallah ibn Muhammad al-Mansur.

The article says he was an Abbasid Caliph. Which would, of course, mean that he was a Muslim.

Al-Mansur, again according to that article, was born in 714 AD and died in 775 AD. That would make him not only too old for military service: but considering that he's been dead for over a dozen centuries, he's also physically unfit.

My guess is that you believe that, since Al-Mansur was a Muslim, Michael Monsoor must have been a Muslim too: since his family name sounds a little like "Mansur."

Using the same logic, everybody here in Minnesota named Eric is a Viking chief. (The most famous Eric may be Erik the Red, who was exiled from Viking Norway for unnecessary roughness.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Brian,

I was NOT trying to point out that he is a muslim (one can only be a muslim if one submit's him/her self out of his/her own free will to Allah), but that the name derives from the Middle East.

To know is knowledge, not to guess.

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous of March 11, 2010 9:33 AM,

I'm guessing that you're the same Anonymous who posted this, last month. [copy of previous comment follows]

Anonymous said...
February 23, 2010 7:08 AM

[back to replying]


I'm glad you clarified that. The Monsoors are, as far as I can tell, from the Middle East, a few generations back.

It's hardly a surprise that their family name comes from there, too.

My immediate ancestors came from northwestern Europe. My surname reflects that. Happily, my father's people managed to get through immigration without having their family name changed to something 'American.'

For all the Anonymouses out there?

If you have a point to make: make the point. In words.

A URL, all by itself, may mean something to you: but whoever reads it has to make a guess about what you're thinking at that moment.

Me? I've run into too many Anonymouses who seem to be 100 percent red-white-and-blue-blooded Americans - with rather dubious notions about the linkages between ethnicity and religious beliefs. Among other things.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.