Unveiled today, Murphy’s is the only name in a space reserved for those who have received the highest military decoration for combat valor in Operation Enduring Freedom. At the White House yesterday, President Bush presented the lieutenant’s Medal of Honor to Murphy’s parents, Maureen and Dan Murphy.
Upon seeing his son’s name today -- surrounded by the names of 3,444 Medal of Honor recipients honored in the hall -- Dan Murphy kissed his hand and pressed it to the letters. “This is a little overwhelming,” Murphy, choking back tears, told the audience that packed the hall and spilled into the adjacent Pentagon corridor.
“While we are here today to deal with individual acts of courage by Michael,” Murphy said, “Michael was in fact a team player, and there were 10 other SEALs and eight Army special operations (soldiers) that were lost on that day.”
The fateful day Dan Murphy referred to is June 28, 2005. In the Hindu Kush Mountains that day, as his son led a four-man SEAL team in search of a key terrorist commander, the unit came under attack by some 50 Taliban fighters. The lieutenant is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates, according to a summary of action published by the Navy.
Despite intense combat around him, Michael Murphy -- already wounded in the firefight -- moved into the open, where he could gain a better transmission signal and request backup from headquarters. At one point, Murphy was shot in the back, causing him to drop the transmitter. The lieutenant picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy as they closed in.
By the time the two-hour gunfight had concluded, Murphy and two others SEALs had been killed. An estimated 35 Taliban died in the fighting.
As a somber postscript to Murphy’s bravery, the helicopter that he requested crashed after being struck by a rocket- propelled grenade, killing everyone on board. That day was the deadliest for Navy Special Warfare forces since World War II.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England called Murphy a “rare hero” who sacrificed his life for others. He added that the lieutenant devoted himself to preserving the American way of life for future generations.
“As a nation, we are willing to sacrifice our blood and our treasure for our founding belief, and that founding belief is our freedom,” England said. “Michael was securing those very freedoms for Americans and for the people of Afghanistan when he made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter read an excerpt from the SEAL creed, an ethos with which most Americans are unfamiliar, he said.
“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity,” Winter said, reciting the doctrine. “I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
“Lieutenant Murphy lived that creed,” Winter added. “He looked within himself and chose the path of honor.”
Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, said Murphy distinguished himself above and beyond the call of duty.
“On behalf of all who wear the uniform of the United States Navy, today and for all years to come, I extend our gratitude and our profound admiration for Michael Murphy’s service, for his example, for his leadership and for his uncommon valor,” he said.
Aside from those in Navy dress, Murphy’s memory today was honored by men and women in other uniforms. Some 60 members of the New York City fire department arrived by bus and car to attend the ceremony.
On his SEAL uniform, Murphy wore a New York City firehouse patch to honor firefighters killed during the Sept., 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, which occurred about 60 miles from his hometown Patchogue, N.Y. Firefighters like Daniel Swift, stationed at Ladder 43 in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City, now wear Murphy’s patch on their fire coats.
Swift, who was wounded in Baghdad in 2004 while serving as an Army specialist, said he and his fellow firefighters share an indelible bond with servicemembers. After Murphy died, Swift and the other Ladder 43 firemen hosted the SEALs from Murphy’s unit for a few days at the firehouse, loading them onto engines during calls.
“There were no second thoughts,” Swift said about his Ladder’s decision to attend today’s ceremony. “Not many people could understand the bond between the SEALs and the fire department there, but it exists very powerfully.”
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
It is quite beautiful - especially when Mr. Murphy talks about his son.
To read about the Medal of Honor, go here.