History regales us with tales of soldiers who risked all, sacrificed everything and performed heroic acts of courage in defense of their country. In today’s modern world my opinion is that the word “heroic” has been abused and is too-often used to describe actions that aren’t heroic but simply correct behavior. Or we picture heroes in the image of fictional characters like Jack Bauer or Bruce Wayne. But there are real life heroes, and anyone who doubts whether true military heroes really exist in this modern age need look no further than the life and death of Lt Murphy. Little did I know that on the day I was shipping out to Army Basic Training a hero had given his life in defense of freedom.
“Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion.” – Calvin Coolidge
On a fair June day in 2005, Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy embarked on a mission in Afghanistan. Known as Operation Red Wings, the mission involved a four-man Navy Seal reconnaissance team, led by Lt Murphy. The mission’s ultimate goal was to kill or capture the leader of a band of insurgents known in the region as the “Mountain Tigers.” Operation Red Wings began well. The four Navy Seals were helicoptered into an area close to the border to Pakistan undetected.A turning point in the mission came 24 hours later, when a group of goat herders discovered Lt Murphy and his team. The Navy Seals were faced with deciding whether to kill the herders or to allow them to go free. The decision came to a vote and the goat herders were released.
Soon after releasing the goat herders, Taliban forces surrounded the four-man team and began an attack. Unable to get a radio signal due to interference from the mountainous rocks that surrounded them, the Seals fought back against an estimated 30-40 Taliban fighters.The battle raged for more than two hours. As ammunition ran low and his team suffered injuries, Lt Murphy made a bold decision. Knowing that their only chance of survival was to call in reinforcements, the Navy Seal stepped out onto an exposed ridge in hopes that he could get a radio frequency. He knew this meant imminent death for himself. And as enemy fire ripped through his body, Lt Murphy managed to contact the air base and relay their location, as well as the size of the Taliban force.
Lt Murphy picked up his rifle and continued fighting after completing the call, but he was soon overwhelmed and died. Only one of the four-man team, Marcus Luttrell, survived the battle. It is estimated that up to 70 percent of the Taliban attackers were killed.
For his uncommon valor, Lt Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2007, the first member of the Navy to receive the military’s highest decoration since the Vietnam War. He leaves behind a legacy of courage and true heroism that continues to inspire those in the armed forces as well as civilians to this day. Two books have been written about Murphy’s exploits, one by survivor Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell later commented that no monument could ever be built tall enough to represent the colossal courage of his friend and fellow Navy Seal, Lt. Michael P. Murphy.
“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” – Benjamin Disraeli
In his honor a film/feature-length documentary was made. MURPH – The Protector launched on March 22, 2013 at select Regal Theaters across the country. Click here for more details.
In all Lt Murphy received 11 military decorations: the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Purple Heart, Commendation Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon. In his honor a guided missile destroyer was named after him – USS Michael Murphy (DGG-112). There is also a post office in his home town and a park.
Michael Murphy was born on May 7, 1976 to parents Maureen and Daniel Murphy in Suffolk County, New York. He earned a reputation for leadership early on, gaining the nickname “the protector” for standing up to school yard bullies. His father later said of him: “Michael believed doing for others was a life well lived.” Murphy graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1998, was accepted into the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School in 2000 and earned his SEAL Trident in 2002
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.
“I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.” – Bob Dylan
Citation from http://wikipedia.org
All Photos from http://commons.wikimedia.org