Retired Navy SEAL Mike Sarraille, the organizer of the Triple 7 Expedition, collects his parachute after a skydive in Coolidge, Arizona, December 2022. Photos courtesy Mike Sarraille and Legacy Expeditions.
When a grenade landed among a team of Navy SEALs on a rooftop in Ramadi, Iraq, on Sept. 29, 2006, 25-year-old Michael Monsoor made the split-second decision to smother it with his body, shielding nearby teammates from the blast.
Within 30 minutes, Monsoor — “Mikey” to his fellow SEALs — was dead, but he had saved the lives of his teammates on SEAL Team 3’s Delta Platoon.
Mike Sarraille was one of them.
“He saved a SEAL three feet to his left and a SEAL three feet to his right,” Sarraille said. “I was the SEAL three feet to his right.”
Sarraille grew up in the Bay Area of California. After joining the Marines, he qualified as a Recon Marine and scout sniper before joining the Navy to become a SEAL. After 10 combat deployments and 15 more years of service as a Navy SEAL officer, he retired from the military.
Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael Monsoor was killed in Ramadi, Iraq, on Sept. 29, 2006, when he jumped on a grenade to shield his teammates from the explosion. Photos courtesy of the US Navy. Composite by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die Magazine.
More than a decade after the Battle of Ramadi, Sarraille continues to tell Monsoor’s story.
Sarraille’s latest project is leading a team of 10 vets on the Triple 7 Expedition, a breakneck skydiving trip across all seven continents to honor fallen US service members and raise money for Gold Star families.
The team will leave Punta Arenas, Chile, soon after ringing in the New Year to make its way south for the first jump planned for Jan. 9.
“So each continent will be in memory of a fallen,” Sarraille said.
“I’m jumping into Antarctica in honor of Michael Monsoor,” Sarraille said. “He saved my life. I named my son after him. It’s not lost on me. If just somebody picks up his story and reads it, just one, one American, that’s good.”
Skydivers exit a Twin Otter airplane over Union Glacier Camp, Antarctica. Photo by Adam Ungar/ALE (Antarctica Logistics & Expeditions).
With that first jump into Union Glacier Camp, Antarctica, a clock will start, and the Triple 7 Expedition team will race around the globe, attempting to complete a skydive on each continent in seven days.
If the team succeeds, the trip will qualify as a world record for the fastest time to jump on all seven continents.
But that’s not why the veterans are taking on the challenge.
“You know, the airwaves are filled with all these bullshit stories about Kim Kardashian or other shit that just doesn’t matter,” Sarraille said. “I don’t know why the news doesn’t focus on a soldier a day that passed away from World War II, whatever war, saying this is who this person was, this is what they believed in.
“They died for something they believed in,” he said.
Besides Antarctica, the team has jumps planned in Santiago, Chile; Miami, Florida; Barcelona, Spain; Cairo, Egypt; Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and finally Perth, Australia.
US Marines provide assistance during the evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2021. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nicholas Guevara.
“Then we’re doing an eighth celebratory jump into Tampa, which is the home of [US Special Operations Command], and that one is going to be for the Kabul 13, the young Marines, sailor, and soldier that lost their lives during the withdrawal in Afghanistan," Sarraille said.
The Triple 7 Expedition is the third skydiving project for Legacy Expeditions, the adventure firm Sarraille founded with Andy Stumpf, himself a retired SEAL and a sponsored skydiver, a little more than a year ago.
“Legacy Expeditions, the reason I chose that name is, at the end of the day, all you have is your legacy. And I don’t give a shit about mine because I’m probably going to die when I’m 80 in bed, and I’d be blessed to see my grandchildren,” Sarraille said. But with the expedition he wants to honor other fallen service members. “For a guy like Tom Ratzlaff or Michael Monsoor or Lou Langlais, all these men and women that we lost, the second their stories stop being told, their stories die. And that doesn’t sit okay — that’s not okay with me.”
Ratzlaff and Langlais were both SEALs killed on Extortion 17, a CH-47 shot down by Taliban fighters on Aug. 6, 2011. Thirty US service members and one military working dog died in the crash, marking the single greatest loss of life for special operations since the Global War on Terror began.
US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots assigned to Task Force Flying Dragons, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, fly near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, June 9, 2017. US Army photo by Capt. Brian Harris.
Sarraille piloted his skydiving expedition concept, jumping into five of the world’s highest drop zones in the Himalayas, over 15 days in October 2021.
“We raised $200,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation,” he said. “And we also dedicated those jumps to the guys of Extortion 17. And that was sort of the first trip for Legacy Expeditions.”
Sarraille and Stumpf completed a second skydiving expedition, dubbed "Viking Sky," this past summer over Iceland. The pair completed more than 10 jumps in honor of 16 fallen US service members and raised $50,000 more for SOWF.
The trip also helped the two prepare for Triple 7.
“There’s always been these conversations about seven continents, seven skydives, seven days, and it was like a running joke — can’t be done,” Sarraille said. “You know the mindset of special operations: Don’t tell us we can’t do something. We have a way of making the seemingly impossible possible.”
Mike Sarraille prepares for the Triple 7 Expedition at a skydiving training camp at Complete Parachute Solutions in Coolidge, Arizona, December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
After deciding to pursue the Triple 7 project, Sarraille said his first call was to retired Navy explosive ordnance disposal tech Nick Kush.
“Nick and I served in the Battle of Ramadi in 2006 together, in the Battle of Sadr City in 2008. He quite literally saved my life,” Sarraille said. Since leaving the Navy, Kush has thrown himself into skydiving. “He’s built a reputation in the skydiving community.”
At first, said Sarraille, Kush didn’t think the retired SEAL was serious about the expedition.
“Before we knew it, we’re like, ‘Hey, we can actually do this thing, and let’s do it in honor of our brothers who fell on the battlefield,’” Sarraille said.
While racing around the globe, the Triple 7 Expedition has a goal of raising $7 million for Folds of Honor, a nonprofit based in Oklahoma that annually provides thousands of educational scholarships to the families of wounded and fallen service members, as well as first responders.
Triple 7 Expedition tandem master Nick Kush jumps passenger and expedition team member Jim Wigginton in Coolidge, Arizona, December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
“As you talk about these men and women who lost their lives on the battlefield, and they left behind children,” Sarraille said, “not only do we tell their stories, but we also secure their legacies for the future by providing scholarships to their kids, and that means the world to us.”
Black Rifle Coffee Company, which owns Coffee or Die Magazine, is a sponsor of the Triple 7 Expedition.
Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.
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