Nearly every day, we walk the halls of Garden Grove High School as we go about our daily routines. We pass a football stadium that we remember simply for all of the games that we’ve attended. We go through Heritage Hall focused on arriving to our next class on time, not pausing to look at what the many glass cabinets display. Yet rarely do we think about those who came before us, about their own time here and the impact that they have left.
But now there will be a new and especially prominent reminder of one Argonaut alumni’s selflessness and courage, with the renaming and rebuilding of Garden Grove High School’s football stadium in honor of Michael A. Monsoor. Monsoor, while serving in Iraq as a Navy SEAL, gave his life to protect his team when he smothered a grenade thrown toward them with his own body. His bravery did not just touch his loved ones and his team; his selflessness was recognized by the president, when he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and later when a destroyer ship was named after him. On Tuesday, March 15th, a ceremony was held to both honor Monsoor and present the architectural plans for the new football stadium.
At five in the evening, members of the Garden Grove community, including members of the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association, members of city government, and GGUSD district officials, gathered together. Michael Monsoor’s family and friends sat in the very front, in special seats near the podium designated for them. News crew and student photographers alike came to capture the event.
ASB lined the front of the school with miniature flags and set up chairs for the audience, and a special flagpole had been previously installed for the ceremony. The smaller flags were not the only patriotic sight; two members of the Pacifica High School Navy JROTC performed the presentation of colors, where the flag came to life, fluttering and waving above the silent crowd. Robert McDonald, from the OC Veteran Advisory Counsel, led all those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance, and then the principal, Mr. Osborne, stepped up to the podium to introduce the event and explain why everyone had gathered here today.
Kris Van Hook, a former teacher at GGHS and Monsoor’s football coach during his time at GGHS, came up to the podium to speak about Michael. He opened up about his own experiences as Michael’s coach, and how much he respected him — and still does.
“Mike was not the biggest, strongest, fastest, most talented player that we had out there. Yet I would say that nobody on the football team outworked Mike when he was out there day by day,” he stated, recalling all of the questions that he had received the day he learned that Monsoor had received the Medal of Honor. “He was extremely dedicated, not only to his own skills and his own improvement, but also to his team. He was a team player first, and that can sound trite at times, but that was Mike. His biggest contribution was always how he played as a team player.”
Monsoor played football for all four of his years at GGHS, and eventually went on to play as a starter for multiple games. His mother, Sally Monsoor, recalls all of the games that their family attended at GGHS; all four Monsoor children were involved in athletics. They sat in those bleachers again and again for many years, she says, so the plan for the memorial stadium is very exciting, as they have so many memories there.
Miguel Vasquez, a member of the Orange County Advisory Council, also spoke on Michael’s behalf, as a veteran himself who had known Michael and his team. Michael’s story hit especially close to home, as someone familiar with combat and the terrible toll it takes on people and just how difficult it can be to come home, both physically and emotionally. He shared just how grateful he was for Michael giving his team the chance to come home, his selflessness, and his faith.
Dr. George West shared about the process of approving and renaming the stadium, and all of the effort that went in on the part of the community and the school district to do so. He, along with Mr. Osborne, presented Michael Monsoor’s parents, George and Sally Monsoor, with the architectural plan for the new stadium. The new establishment would preserve all of the original memories of the current stadium, while including better, more modernized facilities.
The flag was lowered, and then Mr. Osborne concluded the ceremony with a final, brief speech, thanking everyone in attendance and inviting them to a reception ceremony held in the cafeteria.
As Miguel Vasquez said in his speech, it’s up to us to look at the stadium as a constant reminder of heroism and an inspiration to do more for the people around us.
“Let Michael’s legacy, that includes all of you today, inspire you to love yourself, to love your family, to love each other, and to love your community, because it’s truly what he did, for himself and all of us,” says Vasquez. “I know that future generations that cross through the doors of this school and through this stadium, once they learn Michael’s legacy, will continue to save lives.”