Saturday, May 7, 2011

Honoring a Navy SEAL

The news this past week has been full of mentions about the United States Navy's elite SEAL Teams and the Special Operations community as a whole. But today, another SEAL in particular is remembered on what would have been his 35th birthday.

Dan and Maureen Murphy lost their son Michael to the Global War On Terror almost six years ago. On June 28th, 2005 Lieutenant. Michael Murphy was leading a team of four U.S. Navy SEALs through a remote mountainside ravine in Afghanistan when they encountered a large group of some 2500 Taliban fighters.

Outnumbered and outgunned, all four members of the team were injured in the ensuing firefight. Their radios were damaged beyond operability, but they still had a satellite phone.

"Michael realized the only way to save the team is to step out and get clear to make a satellite call to headquarters for reinforcements," said Dan Murphy.

Knowing his chances of surviving were beyond slim, he left the safety of the rocks to relay their position, putting himself directly in the line of fire. He was hit in the back and dropped the phone, but retrieved it and continued the call. Despite his wounds he still ended the phone call with the words, "Roger that, sir...thank you."

Tragically, the helicopter sent to help Lieutenant Murphy's team was brought down by the enemy and all 16 on board were killed.

Michael and three members of his team were also killed. Only one man survived, Marcus Luttrell, and he was able to provide an eyewitness account of Murphy's bravery that day. Later, that account of Operation Red Wings became the book . “Lone Survivor”.

From left to right, STG2 Matthew G. Axelson; ITCS Daniel R. Healy, QM2 James Suh, HM2 Marcus Luttrell, MM2 Eric S. Patton, and Lt. Michael P. Murphy. With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wings. Healy, Suh, and Patton were on Turbine 33, the rescue bird that crashed. Axelson was on the ground with Murphy and Luttrell, along with another SEAL, GM2 Danny Dietz, below.

The courage and selfless sacrifice of Michael Murphy lead President Bush to posthumously award Murphy the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor.

The Navy has also chosen to honor Lieutenant Murphy in another way. Today, the USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112) will be christened at Bath Iron Works in Maine. Built by 5,000 workers with over 6,200 tons of steel, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer will have a crew of 279 and displace 9,200 tons total.

Maureen Murphy, left, and Edwin Bard of Bath Iron Works inscribe the signatures of Michael Murphy's family on an iron plate during a dedication ceremony during the ship's keel laying last June.

While the ship will bear Michael's name it was important to his parents that all the men killed that day be remembered. Each man has his own personal coin; 19 of them will be placed in a box and welded to the mast. Another keepsake on board the ship will be a patch that Murphy wore on his uniform from a fire station in Spanish Harlem that Murphy wore to commemorate the sacrifices of the FDNY.

Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy's Medal of Honor Citation reads as follows:

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 the 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 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.

From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember’d; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition: And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

1 comment:

C Doe said...

Going on 10 years ago...seems like yesterday; a day Americans, brothers, will not forget. Thank-you Murph, I look forward to meeting you on the other side.