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Irish Voice News
Highest Honor for Afghan War Hero
October 17, 2007
By April Drew
AN Irish American Navy SEAL who was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2005 will be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration, in a ceremony at the White House on Monday, October 22.
Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy of Patchogue, Long Island will receive the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary selfless heroism and unwavering courage while leading a four-man special reconnaissance mission within enemy territory east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan on June 27 to 28, 2005.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military award for valor in action against an enemy force, which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the armed services of the U.S.
President George W. Bush will confer the Medal of Honor, a bronze shaped star hanging from a blue ribbon, to the Murphy family at a traditional White House ceremony.
“We are so proud for Michael, but unfortunately for the family Michael is the first recipient of the Medal of Honor as a Navy SEAL who is receiving it posthumously,” Daniel Murphy, his father who is also a decorated veteran for service in Vietnam, told the Irish Voice during a lengthy interview about his son’s heroic life.
Speaking proudly of his son and the honor to be bestowed on him next week, Murphy said he will never tire of telling stories about his son, who he describes as “good Irish stock.”
“It’s easy to talk about our son because he was an absolutely wonderful man and boy growing up. He was polite, humble, reserved and a real gentleman,” said Murphy.
According to Murphy, who has been to Ireland many times with the Lawyers Alliance for Justice in Northern Ireland during his involvement in the peace process, Michael’s Irish family and heritage were extremely important to him. Murphy’s father James Murphy was born on a boat in New York Harbor in 1914 on his way from Co. Cork.
“Michael and my father, his grandfather, were extremely close,” said Murphy, who admitted that the only time he ever saw his son crying as an adult was at his grandfather’s funeral.
Michael’s mother Maureen is also first generation Irish American, and every St. Patrick’s Day without fail Michael would make a point of calling his mom.
Michael will become the first Medal of Honor recipient from Afghanistan, the first sailor to receive the honor since the Vietnam war and the third person for his role in the global war on terrorism.
Murphy, 29 when he died, was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2005. The Long Islander commanded a four-man team which worked together secretly to gather intelligence on a high-ranking Taliban leader.
According to Newsday, a goat herder stumbled upon the Navy SEALs’ hiding place in a mountainside forest. Michael, as the leader of the group, had a choice to make –- letting the herder go would quite possibly blow their cover as he would likely tell insurgents about the presence of the Americans.
The other choices? Take the herder as captive, which would slow the group’s movements, or else kill him.
The latter was not an option in Murphy’s eyes. “You know what, we are not murderers,” he told his comrades. “We’re not just going to kill someone.”
Shortly after, Taliban fighters surrounded them and a fierce battle took place.
In an attempt to save his team, Murphy managed to retrieve cover long enough to radio his base for back-up. In doing so, Murphy was shot in the stomach and the back, yet he still managed to complete his radio transmission, thus saving the life of one of his men, Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell, who later wrote a book about the incident and Murphy’s outstanding bravery.
The U.S. helicopter that arrived with reinforcements shortly after Murphy’s call was also shot down, killing all 16 on board. Murphy and two of his men died.
Ironically, growing up Michael’s parents used to call him “Mike the Protector.” His father, a law clerk in State Supreme Court in Riverhead said, “His focus was always on helping others. Michael believed the only life worth living was a life in service to and helping others who were less fortunate.”
Murphy feels that this trait is what drew his oldest son, (Michael has a brother John, 10 years his junior who was recently accepted as a candidate to the New York City Police Department) towards the Navy SEALs.
“He just wanted to protect his country,” said Murphy, who received a Purple Heart for battlefield wounds sustained in Vietnam.
Murphy described his son’s attitude towards his assignment in Afghanistan as “very personal.”
“Because he was going to the land where our enemies recruited, plotted, planned and then attacked New York City, which Michael loved dearly, he was very serious about it,” Murphy said, explaining that Michael lost several friends during the World Trade Center attacks.
“Michael knew he was going after the bad guys to make sure it didn’t happen again.”
Michael, who has been hailed a hero by everyone who reads his story, would not have thought of himself as so, according to his father. Daniel shares a story of Michael’s humility through painful tears.
“Michael was 11 or 12 years old,” he remembers. “At that age kids are required to take tests to see how well they place. Our friend’s son was jumping for joy saying that he got a 96,” he said. The boy, who was called Paul, asked Michael how he did and Michael said, “I did fine.”
It was only when his parents got him home they discovered Michael got 98. “We asked him why he didn’t say it, and do you know what he said? ‘You know, Mom and Dad, I just didn’t want to burst Paul’s bubble, I didn’t want to take his happiness away from him.’ That was what our son was like throughout his life,” said Murphy, his voice both quivering with sadness and pride.
“It’s still so raw,” he admits softly.
The last time the Murphys had their Navy SEAL son home was March 2005. The last time they saw him face to face was at the airport where they dropped him off not knowing where in the world he was going. All they knew was he was being deployed.
“We never worried about him getting out of scrapes but we always worried about him coming back because he always put people first,” said Murphy. And that is exactly how Michael died.
It wasn’t until his death that the Murphy family discovered their son was in Afghanistan. Just before his final operation, Murphy sent his family an email with a picture of his team attached and underneath it said, “Dad, this is my team-guys. I like what we are doing. It’s like the Wild Wild West here.”
Speaking about his son being awarded the highest military honor there is, Murphy said the family is very proud and that being awarded such an honor really showed what a “consummate team player” Michael was.
Luttrell, from Texas, documented Michael’s strength at the time in his book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.
“An iron-souled warrior with colossal strength and courage,” he wrote.
Murphy agrees. “I don’t know how you can say it better than any of that.”
Luttrell, in the book, details the courage and courteous nature of Michael. He writes that while making the call for reinforcements, and being shot twice, Michael still managed to be chivalrous while concluding his transmission to headquarters.
“In the book it says that Michael had the presence of mind to say, ‘Thank you, Roger that, thank you,’” said Murphy.
The family will go down to Washington, D.C. on Sunday. “We want to visit two of Michael’s teammates who also died with him,” said Daniel, explaining that they are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
On Tuesday, the family will participate in a public event held at the Pentagon and then later that evening at 6 p.m. they will attend a Navy memorial reception.
“This memorial is important to me because it will be the first time I can speak publicly,” said Murphy.
Michael is buried in Calverton cemetery in Long Island, close to the Murphy family.
In a statement Senator Hillary Clinton said, “A true hero in every sense of the word, Lieutenant Michael Murphy’s life is a testament to honor on and off the battlefield,”
“He lived life to the fullest for his 29 years but what bothers me the most is that he had so much to offer and now the world is a lesser place without him without it,” said Michael’s proud but still grieving dad.
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