To the family of Petty Officer Monsoor… welcome.
It was an honor to spend some time with you before the ceremony. You are truly great Americans… and I know that Michael would be extraordinarily proud of you.
Welcome also to Michael’s brothers in arms and to the distinguished Medal of Honor recipients who have joined us today. And welcome to all of his relatives and friends who have traveled so far to be here.
Secretary Winter, Admiral Olson and Lieutenant Colonel Clark have eloquently described Petty Officer Monsoor’s heroic wartime service and described, as well, the man beyond the battlefield… the one many of you knew best and loved so well….
What I’d like to do is talk about the Medal of Honor itself… to help put in context… the award… Petty Officer Monsoor… and his actions that day in Ramadi... so very far from the home and family he loved.
A nation is distinguished by what it believes… by what it values… by who it honors… and to what it aspires….
The Medal of Honor is an exceedingly rare thing… the greatest honor a grateful nation can bestow on one of its own. It is not given lightly… in fact; it is a most jealously guarded distinction… not because the nation is stingy in its praise, but because the standard is so very high and because we are determined to preserve its meaning and its integrity.
The qualifying action must be:
Proven by incontestable evidence;
It must be so outstanding that it emphatically distinguishes the recipient's gallantry from other forms of bravery;
It must put the recipient’s life at risk; and
It must be the type of deed, which, had it not been done, the recipient would not be subject to criticism… a deed truly above and beyond the call of duty.
It is awarded in the name of the Congress and presented by the President of the United States…. But, in truth, it is bestowed on behalf of the American people. It and its handful of recipients are genuine national treasures.
In the century and a half since its creation… many millions have worn the cloth of the nation and served in harm’s way… but fewer than 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded. I said it was a rare distinction…. In the nearly seven years since 9-11… just four have been awarded for actions in the Global War on Terror.
The nation’s proud history—thankfully—has been punctuated by the great valor of its people…. The hard lesson of our history is that the freedom we love… was first won… and since maintained, through the selfless service, valor and sacrifice of generation after generation of the nation’s very best… its most noble citizens. The hard reality of war… relearned again in the aftermath of 9-11, is that above all else… war means sacrifice… sacrifice for the individuals involved… and sacrifice for their families.
Petty Officer Monsoor epitomized the virtues we hold most dear and knew far better than most the terrible cost of war… just as his loved ones know all too well the burden a warrior’s family is sometimes asked to carry.
War is the violent stage on which man’s worst… and very best qualities are displayed…. Michael Monsoor showed us… again and again… on the violent battlefields of Iraq… and in every step of his young life… the very best we can be. America needs its heroes… needs men like Petty Officer Monsoor… we need their service and, perhaps most of all, we need their example.
His heroism and sacrifice remind us that the ultimate cost of freedom must periodically be paid…. In this war on terror, it’s a price that’s been paid here in the Pentagon, in New York, in Pennsylvania, in Iraq and Afghanistan and wherever the brave men and women who defend us serve.
The Medal of Honor represents both the uncommon valor of the recipient and deep, abiding gratitude of the nation… but at its heart, what it truly reflects in its simplicity is the character of each hero who receives it. And each hero’s character, in turn, is a reflection of the people who have had the greatest influence on him over time – his friends, his community, and, most of all, his family.
God bless Petty Officer Monsoor’s family. God bless his comrades in arms… those brave men who served beside and for whom he made the ultimate sacrifice… may they, too, be comforted, and uplifted by his example.
It’s been said that “the legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name… and the inheritance of a great example.” Petty Officer Monsoor and his peerless example… are now forever immortalized in the nation’s consciousness… he is part of the national fabric… a reflection of what America values… a reflection of what it honors… and to what it aspires.
Petty Officer Monsoor… thank you for your service, for your valor, your sacrifice and, most of all, your example….
Thank you all for being here today. God bless all of you… and God bless America.