By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
October 22, 2007
In a White House ceremony this afternoon, President Bush presented the first Medal of Honor awarded for combat in Afghanistan. The family of SEAL and Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy accepted the medal which honors the heroism of Lt. Murphy who was killed when his four man SEAL team engaged in a fire fight with some thirty Taliban terrorists.
SEAL signifies “Sea, Air and Land.”
Lt. Murphy, from Long Island, N.Y, gave his life while making a radio call for help which resulted in the rescue of one of his men.
President Bush presented the nation’s highest military honor for valor to the family. Lt. Murphy’s father recieved the Purple Heart for wounds in the Vietnam war.
“Michael Murphy stood on a holy hill, one that ultimately led to an eternal presence,” said Rear Adm. Robert F. Burt, chief of navy chaplains, in a prayer opening the White House ceremony.
The president also told some family stories about Michael Murphy, who swam the length of a neighbor’s pool alone before he reached the age of two.
|Michael Patrick Murphy
“There’s a lot of awards in the military, but when you see a Medal of Honor, you know whatever they went through is pretty horrible. You don’t congratulate anyone when you see it,” said Marcus Luttrell, the lone member of Murphy’s team to survive the firefight with the Taliban.
Luttrell called Murphy the bravest man and the finest warrior he had ever known.
Murphy, Luttrell and two other SEALs were searching for a terrorist in the Afghan mountains on June 28, 2005, when their mission was compromised after they were spotted by locals, who presumably alerted the Taliban to their presence.
An intense gun battle ensued, with anti-coalition fighters swarming around the outnumbered SEALs.
Although wounded, Murphy is credited with risking his own life by moving into the open for a better position to transmit a call for help.
Still under fire, Murphy provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force. At one point he was shot in the back, causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in.
He then returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle. A U.S. helicopter sent to rescue the men was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 aboard.
The Taliban fighters were reinforced by 50 or more terrorists.
By the end of the two-hour gunfight, Murphy and two of his comrades were also dead. An estimated 35 Taliban were also killed.
Luttrell was blown over a ridge and knocked unconscious. He escaped, and was protected by local villagers for several days before he was rescued.
“We look at these guys and say, ‘What heroes,'” said Murphy’s father, Dan Murphy.
“These guys look at themselves and say, ‘I’m just doing my job.’ That’s an understatement, but that’s the way they view it, and that was Michael’s whole life.”
Murphy, who died before his 30th birthday, is the fourth Navy SEAL to earn the award and the first since the Vietnam War.
Two Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously in the Iraq war: to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, who was killed in 2004 after covering a grenade with his helmet, and to Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, who was killed in 2003 after holding off Iraqi forces with a machine gun before he was killed at the Baghdad airport.
Murphy’s heroics have been widely recognized on Long Island, where he graduated in 1994 from Patchogue-Medford High School.
U.S. President George W. Bush (R) presents the Medal of Honor to Maureen and Daniel Murphy, the parents of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, October 22, 2007. Murphy received the medal posthumously for his action in combat while leading a special reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines in Afghanistan. Peace and Freedom wishes to thank and recognize Reuters and photographer Jim Young.
To his fellow SEALs, he was known as “Murph,” but as a child, his parents nicknamed him “The Protector,” because of his strong moral compass. After the 2001 terror attacks, that compass eventually led him to Afghanistan, where he wore a patch of the New York City Fire Department on his uniform.
“He took his deployment personally. He was going after, and his team was going after, the men who planned, plotted against and attacked not only the United States, but the city he loved, New York,” said his father. “He knew what he was fighting for.”
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen participated in the White House ceremony to honor Lt. Murphy.
2:24 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, and welcome to the White House. The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that a President can bestow. It recognizes gallantry that goes above and beyond the call of duty in the face of an enemy attack. The tradition of awarding this honor began during the Civil War. And many of those who have received the medal have given their lives in the action that earned it.
Today, we add Lieutenant Michael Murphy’s name to the list of recipients who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Deep in the mountains of Afghanistan, this brave officer gave his life in defense of his fellow Navy SEALs. Two years later, the story of his sacrifice humbles and inspires all who hear it. And by presenting Michael Murphy’s family with the Medal of Honor that he earned, a grateful nation remembers the courage of this proud Navy SEAL.
I welcome the Vice President; Senator Ted Stevens; Senator Chuck Schumer, from Lieutenant Murphy’s home state. I appreciate very much the fact that Congressman Tim Bishop, from Lieutenant Murphy’s district, is with us today. Welcome. Thank you all for coming.
I appreciate the fact that Deputy Secretary Gordon England has joined us; Secretary Pete Geren of the Army; Secretary Don Winter of the Navy; Secretary Mike Wynne of the Air Force; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations; and all who wear the nation’s uniform. Welcome.
I appreciate the fact that we’ve got Barney Barnum, Tom Kelley, Tommy Norris, and Mike Thornton, Medal of Honor recipients, with us today.
We do welcome Dan Murphy and Maureen Murphy, father and mother of Michael Murphy; John Murphy, his brother; and other family members that are with us today.
It’s my honor to welcome all the friends and comrades of Lieutenant Michael Murphy to the White House. And I want to thank Chaplain Bob Burt, Chief of Chaplains, for his opening prayer.
Looking back on his childhood in Patchogue, New York, you might say that Michael Murphy was born to be a Navy SEAL. SEALs get their name from operating by sea, air, and land — and even as a toddler, Michael could find his way through any obstacle. When he was just 18 months old, he darted across a neighbor’s yard, and dove into the swimming pool. By the time his frantic parents reached him, Michael had swum to the other side with a big smile on his face. As he grew older, Michael learned to swim from one side of a nearby lake to the other — and he developed into a talented all-around athlete.
But beyond his physical strength, Michael Murphy was blessed with a powerful sense of right and wrong. This sense came from devoted parents who taught him to love his neighbor — and defend those who could not defend themselves. Well, Michael took these lessons to heart. One day in school, he got into a scuffle sticking up for a student with a disability. It’s the only time his parents ever got a phone call from the principal — and they couldn’t have been prouder. Michael’s passion for helping others led him to become a caring brother, a tutor, a lifeguard, and eventually, a member of the United States Armed Forces.
Michael’s decision to join the military wasn’t an easy one for his family. As a Purple Heart recipient during Vietnam, Michael’s father understood the sacrifices that accompany a life of service. He also understood that his son was prepared to make these sacrifices. After graduating from Penn State with honors, Michael accepted a commission in the Navy — and later, set off for SEAL training. Fewer than a third of those who begin this intense training program graduate to become Navy SEALs. Yet there was little doubt about the determined lieutenant from New York. And in 2002, Michael earned his Navy SEAL Trident.
Michael also earned the respect of his men. They remember a wise-cracking friend who went by “Mikey” or “Murph.” They remember a patriot who wore a New York City firehouse patch on his uniform in honor of the heroes of 9/11. And they remember an officer who respected their opinions, and led them with an understated, yet unmistakable, sense of command. Together, Michael and his fellow SEALs deployed multiple times around the world in the war against the extremists and radicals. And while their missions were often carried out in secrecy, their love of country and devotion to each other was always clear.
On June 28th, 2005, Michael would give his life for these ideals. While conducting surveillance on a mountain ridge in Afghanistan, he and three fellow SEALs were surrounded by a much larger enemy force. Their only escape was down the side of a mountain — and the SEALs launched a valiant counterattack while cascading from cliff to cliff. But as the enemy closed in, Michael recognized that the survival of his men depended on calling back to the base for reinforcements. With complete disregard for his own life, he moved into a clearing where his phone would get reception. He made the call, and Michael then fell under heavy fire. Yet his grace and upbringing never deserted him. Though severely wounded, he said “thank you” before hanging up, and returned to the fight — before losing his life.
Unfortunately, the helicopter carrying the reinforcements never reached the scene. It crashed after being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. And in the end, more Americans died in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005 than on any other day since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. This day of tragedy also has the sad distinction of being the deadliest for Navy Special Warfare forces since World War II.
One of Michael’s fellow SEALs did make it off the mountain ridge — he was one of Michael’s closest friends. Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell of Texas, author of a riveting book called “Lone Survivor,” put it this way: “Mikey was the best officer I ever knew, an iron-souled warrior of colossal and almost unbelievable courage in the face of the enemy.”
For his courage, we award Lieutenant Michael Murphy the first Medal of Honor for combat in Afghanistan. And with this medal, we acknowledge a debt that will not diminish with time — and can never be repaid.
Our nation is blessed to have volunteers like Michael who risk their lives for our freedom. We’re blessed to have mothers and fathers like Maureen and Dan Murphy who raise sons of such courage and character. And we’re blessed with the mercy of a loving God who comforts all those who grieve.
And now I ask Michael’s parents to join on stage, and the Military Aide will read the citation.
MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005.
While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged, enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four-member team.
Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of his team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into an open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team.
In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, courageous actions, and extraordinary devotion to duty, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
(The Medal of Honor is presented to Lieutenant Michael Murphy’s parents.)
END 2:45 P.M. EDT
Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy to receive Medal of Honor from the President
NBC Relents: Honors Medal of Honor Recipient Michael P. Murphy
This undated file photo released by the U.S. Navy shows Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy, from Patchogue, N.Y. Murphy, who was killed while leading a reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines in Afghanistan was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for valor, by President Bush on Oct. 23, 2007. He was killed June 27-28, 2005, while leading a special reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan to find a key Taliban leader. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, File)