Michael Patrick Murphy (07 May 1976 to 28 June 2005) was a United States Navy SEAL officer who was awarded the US military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honour, for his actions during the War in Afghanistan. He was the first member of the United States Navy to receive the award since the Vietnam War. His other posthumous awards include the Silver Star Medal (which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honour) and the Purple Heart.
Michael Murphy was born and raised in Suffolk County, New York. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University with honours and dual degrees in political science and psychology. After college he accepted a commission in the United States Navy and became a United States Navy SEAL in July 2002. After participating in several War on Terrorism missions, he was killed on 28 June 2005, after his team was compromised and surrounded by Taliban forces near Asadabad, Afghanistan.
The US Navy ship USS Michael Murphy, and several civilian and military buildings have been named in his honour.
Early Life and Education
Murphy was born on 07 May 1976 in Smithtown, New York to Irish American parents Maureen and Daniel Murphy, a former assistant Suffolk County district attorney and a wounded veteran of the Vietnam War. He was raised in Patchogue, New York. He attended Saxton Middle School, where he played youth soccer and pee-wee football, with his father serving as his coach. In high school, he continued playing sports, and took a summer job as a lifeguard at the Brookhaven town beach in Lake Ronkonkoma, New York. He returned to the job every summer throughout his college years.
Murphy was known to his friends as “Murph” and as “The Protector” in his high school years. In 8th grade, he protected a child with special needs who was being shoved into a locker by a group of boys, ending with Murphy physically pulling the attackers away from the child. This was the only time the school principal had to notify Murphy’s parents of a ‘disciplinary’ issue; his parents later reported that they “couldn’t have been prouder”. He also protected a homeless man who was being attacked while collecting cans. He chased away the attackers and helped the man pick up his cans.
In 1994, Murphy graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School and left home to attend The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). He graduated in 1998 with a double major in political science and psychology. Murphy was engaged to his college sweetheart, Heather Duggan, and their wedding scheduled for November 2005.
After graduating from Penn State, Murphy applied and was accepted to several law schools, but decided to attend SEAL mentoring sessions at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. In September 2000, he accepted an appointment to the US Navy’s Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida. On December 13 of that year, he was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy and began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, California in January 2001, eventually graduating with Class 236 in November 2001.
Upon graduation from BUD/S, he attended the United States Army Airborne School, SEAL Qualification Training and SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) school. Murphy earned his SEAL Trident and checked on board SDV Team ONE (SDVT-1) in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii in July 2002. In October 2002, he deployed with Foxtrot Platoon to Jordan as the liaison officer for Exercise Early Victor. Following his tour with SDVT-1, Murphy was assigned to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) in Florida and deployed to Qatar in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After returning from Qatar, he was deployed to Djibouti to assist in the operational planning of future SDV missions.
Combat in Afghanistan
Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name used by the United States Government for its War in Afghanistan, together with three smaller military actions under the umbrella of its Global War on Terrorism. The war began on 07 October 2001 with the response of the United States and United Kingdom to the September 11 attacks in New York City and Arlington, Virginia. In early 2005, Murphy was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE as officer in charge of Alpha Platoon and deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Operation Red Wings
Operation Red Wings was a counter-insurgent mission in Kunar province, Afghanistan, involving four members of the United States Navy SEALs. Murphy and two other SEALs, Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson, were killed in the fighting, in addition to 16 US special operations soldiers, who were killed when their helicopter was shot down while attempting to extract the SEAL Team. Prior to a helicopter being shot down in 2011, it was both the largest loss of life for US forces since the invasion began and the largest loss for the SEALs since the Vietnam War. Marcus Luttrell was the only surviving US SEAL from the squad; he was protected by local villagers, who sent an emissary to the closest military base, allowing a rescue team to locate him.
Murphy was the Commander of a four-man reconnaissance team, that was on a mission to kill or capture a top Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah (code name Ben Sharmak), who commanded a group of insurgents known as the “Mountain Tigers,” west of Asadabad. The team was dropped off by helicopter in a remote, mountainous area east of Asadabad in Kunar Province, near the Pakistan border. After an initially successful infiltration, local goat herders stumbled upon the SEALs’ hiding place. Unable to verify any hostile intent from the herders, the team cut them loose. Hostile locals, possibly the goat herders they let pass, alerted nearby Taliban forces, who surrounded and attacked the small group. After Murphy called for help, an MH-47 Chinook helicopter loaded with reinforcements was dispatched to rescue the team, but was shot down with an RPG, killing all 16 personnel aboard; eight were SEALs, while the rest were service members from the 160th SOAR.
Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson were killed in the action. Luttrell was the only US survivor and was eventually rescued, after several days of wandering in the mountains and being protected by the inhabitants of an Afghan village. All three of Murphy’s men were awarded the Navy’s second-highest honour, the Navy Cross, for their part in the battle making their team the most decorated in Navy SEAL history.
As a consequence of this, the US Military no longer allows for just 4 men in operations like this, it is now standard to have 8+ men in such an operation.
Murphy was killed on 28 June 2005 after he left his cover position and went to a clearing away from the mountains, exposing himself to a hail of gunfire in order to get a clear signal to contact headquarters for relaying the dire situation and requesting immediate support for his team. He dropped the satellite phone after being shot more than 14 times but picked the phone back up and finished the call. While being shot, he signed off saying “Thank You”, then continued fighting from his exposed position until he died from his wounds.
On 04 July 2005, Murphy’s remains were found by a group of American soldiers during a combat search and rescue operation and returned to the United States. Nine days later, on 13 July, Murphy was buried with full military honours at Calverton National Cemetery.
Awards and Decorations
- Special Warfare Insignia.
- Medal of Honour.
- Purple Heart Medal.
- Joint Service Commendation Medal.
- Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
- Combat Action Ribbon.
- National Defence Service Medal.
- Afghanistan Campaign Medal with One Campaign Star.
- Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
- Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
- Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
- Navy Rifle Marksmanship Medal with Expert Device.
- Navy Pistol Marksmanship Medal with Expert Device.
- Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia.
Medal of Honour
On 11 October 2007 the White House announced Murphy would be presented the Medal of Honour, awarded posthumously, during a ceremony at the White House on 22 October 2007.
The Medal of Honour is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government and is bestowed on a member of the armed forces who distinguishes himself “… conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States …” Due to the nature of the award, it is commonly presented posthumously.
On 22 October 2007 the Medal of Honor presentation ceremony was held at the White House. President George W. Bush presented Murphy’s Medal of Honor to his parents.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and 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, Kunar 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, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
During his military career, Murphy received 11 different military decorations, including the Medal of Honour, Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and Navy Commendation Medal. Since his death, the high school he attended, a post office in his home town, a park and a guided missile destroyer, the USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), have been named in his honour.
In addition to the Medal of Honour, his military awards, and his inscription on the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon, Murphy has received several other honours.
Michael P. Murphy Memorial
The Penn State class of 2011’s senior gift was a memorial named after Lt. Michael P. Murphy to commemorate all veterans who served the United States. The wall behind the memorial is inscribed with a Greek phrase meaning “With it [your shield], or on it” referencing the ancient Spartan tradition that a warrior came home from a battle “with his shield” after a victory, or dead being carried home “on his shield” after a defeat. A Greek warrior could not escape the field of battle unless he tossed away the heavy and cumbersome shield. Therefore, “losing one’s shield” meant retreat.
Michael P. Murphy Memorial Park
On 07 May 2006, on what would have been his 30th birthday, Murphy’s hometown dedicated the Michael P. Murphy Memorial Park; formerly Lake Ronkonkoma Park. The park contains a black granite wall dedicated to the men lost in Operation Red Wings, with each member’s name inscribed. A black granite stone embedded in the plaza bears the picture of Murphy and his Medal of Honour.
The memorial was vandalised by a 14-year-old boy in 2018. Murphy’s parents forgave the teen and stated that they did not believe “he understood the significance of what he had done”.
Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy United States Post Office
On 7 May 2007, the Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy United States Post Office was dedicated in Patchogue, New York. The request to rename the historic United States Postal Office located at 170 East Main Street in Patchogue, New York, was submitted as bill H.R. 4101 to the 109th Congress. On 03 January 2006, the 109th Congress approved the request and on 01 August 2006, it was signed by President George W. Bush and became Public Law No: 109-256.
The facility of the United States Postal Service located at 170 East Main Street in Patchogue, New York, shall be known and designated as the ‘Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy Post Office Building’.”
USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112)
On 07 May 2008, Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced that DDG-112, the last planned US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer at the time, would be named USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112) in honor of Murphy. On 07 May 2011, on what would have been Murphy’s 35th birthday, USS Michael Murphy was christened by his mother Maureen Murphy, the ship’s sponsor.
Lt. Michael P. Murphy Combat Training Pool
On 09 July 2009, the newly constructed Combat Training Pool at the Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island was dedicated in honour of Murphy. The pool is an L-shaped, 8-lane pool which holds approximately 347,000 gallons of chlorinated water. The training pool also has a training platform three meters above the water which is used for military training, abandon ship drills, etc.
Lt. Michael P. Murphy Award in Geospatial Intelligence
The Lt. Michael P. Murphy Award in Geospatial Intelligence recognises achievement by a Penn State graduate student who is serving or has served in the US Armed Forces or with the US Intelligence Community and demonstrated exceptional contributions to the discipline. The award was made possible by the gifts of GeoEye and the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. This award is endowed to be given in Murphy’s name in perpetuity.
Lt. Michael P. Murphy/Penn State Veterans Plaza
On 02 November 2010, it was announced the senior gift for the Pennsylvania State University (Murphy’s alma mater) Class of 2011 will be the Lt. Michael P. Murphy/Penn State Veterans Plaza. The plaza will honour all Penn State veterans and Penn State’s only Medal of Honour recipient, Murphy.
Long Island Medal of Honour Recipients Memorial Plaque
The United States Veterans Hospital at Northport Long Island New York maintains a memorial plaque that names all of the Medal of Honour recipients who have lived on Long Island. Lt. Murphy’s name was placed in honour on this memorial shortly after he was awarded the Medal of Honour. Others honoured include President Theodore Roosevelt, General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and Murphy’s fellow Eastern Long Island hero Garfield Langhorn. The Memorial, which is at the back end of the hospital lobby, is in close proximity to where his mother works in the hospital.
High School Campus
In April 2014, Patchogue-Medford High School in Medford, New York, named its campus the “Navy (SEAL) Lt. Michael P. Murphy Campus” after its fallen former pupil.
Sea Cadet Unit
The Sea Cadet unit from West Sayville, New York is named the “Lt. Michael P. Murphy Division” and has hosted and sponsored events in honour of Murphy.
Fort Hamilton MEPS Memorial Wall
The Fort Hamilton MEPS has named the room for taking the oath of service for all new recruits from all branches after Murphy. Inside of which is a memorial wall dedicated to Murphy.
Lt. Michael P Murphy Distinguished Citizen Award
The Central Pennsylvania council of the Navy League of the United States awards the “Lt. Michael P Murphy Distinguished Citizen Award” in his name. The award honours living, non-active duty citizens who exemplify his character and commitment to his country and his community.
After joining the Navy, Murphy began working out by running, doing calisthenics, and climbing ropes in his backyard. He later discovered CrossFit. Murphy created his own CrossFit-style workout called “Body Armour”, which involved running, pushing, pulling, and lifting exercises while wearing body armour, a 16.4 lb (7.4 kg) vest that he wore while deployed.
“Michael’s standard time [to complete the Body Armor workout] was 32 to 35 minutes,” says his father, Dan.
After Murphy’s death, the Body Armour workout began to become popular among SEAL teams everywhere as it could be done almost anywhere and required very little equipment. A SEAL contacted Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, asked if would honour the death of his commanding officer with a CrossFit workout named after him.
On 17 August 2005, Glassman posted the workout to CrossFit website as the Workout of the Day (WOD) with the note:
In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005. This workout was one of Mike’s favorites and he’d named it “Body Armor.” From here on it will be referred to as “Murph” in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is. . . . If you’ve got a 20-pound vest or body armor, wear it.
The workout consists of a 1 mile (1.6 km) run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats, and a final one mile run. The pull-ups, push-ups, and air squats can be partitioned and scaled as needed. Participants are encouraged to wear a 20 lb (9.1 kg) body vest.
In 2007, Joshua Appel, M.D., a former Air Force pararescueman who was part of the rescue of the downed Chinook from Operation Red Wings, suggested performing the Murph workout at his CrossFit affiliate in Albany, New York on Memorial Day that year as way to remind himself and others of the holiday’s purpose. Appel began doing Murph every Memorial Day. In 2010, he set up an online fundraiser that would benefit military charities and the LT Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation. Now the workout is often performed at CrossFit affiliates, military bases, and Navy ships around the world on Memorial Day. The workout has become popular outside of CrossFit, and has been completed by celebrities such as Dwayne Johnson, John Krasinski, Danica Patrick, and Chris Pratt.
In Popular Culture
In the 2013 film Lone Survivor, Murphy is portrayed by actor Taylor Kitsch.
Murph: The Protector is a 2013 documentary about Murphy as told by his family and friends.
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