TAMPA — Some of the nation's toughest commando fighters gathered at MacDill Air Force Base on Monday to remember two men who stand out even among their elite ranks.
U.S. Special Operations Command unveiled the names of Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor and Lt. Michael Murphy, on a monument to special ops troops who died in combat or training.
Both Navy SEALs, Monsoor and Murphy each received a posthumous Medal of Honor for actions in battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were recognized on a wall of the monument reserved for those receiving this highest of military honors.
They joined 38 other names on that wall and 626 overall who have died in American conflicts.
During an hour-long ceremony, members of SOCom's para-commando team parachuted near the memorial with American flags flown over various SOCom commands.
These flags were presented to Monsoor and Murphy's families, who placed two wreaths next to the wall of honor.
"These men excelled at everything they did," said Adm. Eric Olson, the SOCom commander. "In the end, each willingly and knowingly sacrificed their lives to save others."
In September 2006, Monsoor, 25, of Garden Grove, Calif., was positioned between two American snipers on a roof inside the Iraqi city of Ramadi watching for insurgent fighters.
Without warning, a grenade was hurled into the position of the three SEALs, bouncing off Monsoor's chest.
He yelled, "Grenade!"
The machine-gunner jumped on the grenade and smothered it with his body. He did so even though he was the only one of the three in a position to escape the blast.
Monsoor died 30 minutes after the grenade exploded.
In June 2005, Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., was part of a four-man SEAL team tracking a terrorist leader in the mountains of Afghanistan. Locals saw them and betrayed their position to the Taliban.
Soon, the four SEALs — SEAL stands for sea, air and land — were surrounded by up to 50 enemy fighters and a fierce battle opened. The SEALs tried to retreat down the mountain.
Murphy couldn't call for reinforcements with a satellite radio because of the rocky terrain.
So he made his way to an open and clear patch of earth in view of Taliban fighters. It was the only way to get through to reinforcements on his radio.
He was shot in the back and stomach but stayed on the radio with reinforcements.
It was a dark day for naval special warfare troops. An MH-47 Chinook helicopter with 16 men onboard, including eight SEALs, crashed as it responded to Murphy's call. All 16 from the helicopter and two with Murphy died that day.
Murphy's father, Daniel Murphy, a Vietnam veteran, touched the wall and silently remembered his son.
He said his son was known as "the Protector" by his family as he grew up for his habit of trying to help anyone in need.
"What's significant to us," said Murphy, "was that Michael was true to himself right until the end."