Sophie’s Metal in Armor

Why was it I had to wait so many years? Finally, though, it was the story of Michael Anthony Monsoor in Extreme Ownership that caught my attention. That story led me to a gravestone in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Then my daughter Sophie asked a question:

The truth is I don’t know much more about the Congressional Medal of Honor than Sophie does. I really don’t get it. I studied military history at a service academy. I spent a career in the Armed Forces. Most importantly, I was born in the USA and went to public elementary and secondary school. And today I couldn’t give you names of even five Congressional Medal of Honor winners. I’ve been to all sorts of classes, courses, and briefings, but I don’t recall a single one devoted to the Congressional Medal of Honor.

So I am determined to make sure that as they grow my daughters learn more than I ever have about the stories of the heroes who dared and sometimes died to serve their nation with exceptional valor. I want my daughters to lead lives of exceptional valor, whether they serve as warriors on the battle front or the home front or both and more. With this in mind, I began my online search. I was amazed. I found Michael Monsoor: Congressional Medal of Honor Winner in Iraq in Kindle format. I had no idea anything like this had been written. Here, though, is what I learned about Michael Monsoor’s formative years:

Born in 1981, Michael grew up in Garden Grove. California, the son of George (a former Marine) and Sally Monsoor. His family also included a sister Sara, and two brothers, James and Joseph.

At Garden Grove High School Michael proved to be a fine athlete, playing tight end on the football team. He also enjoyed bodyboarding and snowboarding.

What I need is not there. I need to tell my daughters about the things that made Michael Monsoor who and what he became:

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6, New International Version)

At first, I thought all this might be too much for a five-year old. But listen to some more of Sophie’s questions:

Sophie began processing these things of death and valor and family. She wanted to know if his friends and “kids” were also in the same cemetery. She was heading the right direction. How do I take advantage, soon, of the teachable moment? Well, what comes to mind is the video of Sara Monsoor’s tribute to her brother.

Sophie and her big sister, Valentina, 6, love video. So instead of Kung Fu Panda, the girls and I are going to watch together Sara Monsoor’s tribute to her brother Mike. I’ll break it into little parts and talk some about it with the girls and see what they assimilate.

Still, though, I wish I could share with Sophie and Valentina what Michael Monsoor was like growing up. I have been told that Michael Monsoor’s family is very private. I respect that. But based on this video, I am going to find a way to reach out to his sister and see if she would be willing to share more about her brother Mike when they both were growing up. I know my girls could relate to that, especially if Sara and Mike ever had any fights. My Thunder Girls know fighting. I just need to make sure their aggressive energy gets aimed at the enemy and not blue-on-blue, which it mostly is now. “Valentina, why did you hit your sister?!!!” Lord, help us.

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Because They Live

If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men. (Acts 5:38-39, New International Version)

When I woke up this morning, I finally understood. It’s right there in the dedication to Extreme Ownership:

Dedicated to Marc Lee, Mike Monsoor, and Ryan Job— three courageous warriors, SEAL teammates, and friends— who valiantly wielded their big machine guns on the mean streets of Ramadi and laid down their lives so that others might live.

This is the source of everything that Leif Babin and Jocko Willink are doing with Echelon Front and all their Extreme Ownership activities. Because they live, they have debts to these dead brothers in arms. These are debts they can never pay back. They are paying them forward. This is what drives them. They will never hang up their Colts.

They are not bragging about this. It is easy to miss, or at least it was for me. I read the dedication and thought something like, “That’s nice!” Feeble words like “nice” have nothing to do with the motivation that drives these guys. At every step, maybe every breath, their dead friends walk with them. Not only that, they are part of a living brotherhood that is part of a family that is part of a community.

So my take on this is that Echelon Front is not just another startup driven by bright ideas and ambition. It is something else all together. Invest your money, your time, your life.

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