MoH Monday: Lt. Michael P. Murphy
Lt. Michael Patrick Murphy was a U.S. Navy SEAL who received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his service in Afghanistan. He became the first member of the Navy to earn the award since the Vietnam War.
A distinguished scholar, Murphy attended Pennsylvania State University, earning dual degrees in political science and psychology. Upon graduation, he joined the military and enrolled at the Merchant Marine Academy, training to become a SEAL. Murphy eventually earned his SEAL Trident in July 2002.
In 2005, Murphy deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. In June of that year, he traveled with three other service members into the steep mountains of Kunar Province on a special reconnaissance mission. Along with Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson, and Marcus Luttrell, Murphy was charged with tracking a high-ranking member of the Taliban, Ahmad Shah. Shah had become the leader of the Mountain Tigers, an insurgent group gaining influence in the northeast.
On June 28th, while on lookout, Murphy and his fellow service members encountered a group of herders in the hills. Believing them to be harmless, the servicemembers let them pass. Many speculate that the herders provided advance warning to the Taliban.
Shah and his men discovered the lookout location and launched an attack with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Outnumbered by the enemy, American service members faced a relentless barrage of fire. Murphy and the others attempted to retreat, but the mountainous terrain made escape nearly impossible. The SEALs had to leap off twenty-foot cliffs to avoid enemy fire. Despite their attempts to flee, the service members ended up cornered. All the men took hits but continued to fire back. When they could, the service members ducked behind large boulders to shield themselves from bullets.
Dietz hid in the shadow of a rock and attempted to call for backup. Unfortunately, the high mountain walls caused spotty reception. Wanting to save the team, Dietz ran out into the open, where he could get a better signal. Unfortunately, while calling headquarters, he was shot in the hand.
Murphy then ran out from cover, radioing for backup. He took on enemy fire but successfully transmitted a distress call. Soon after, an MH-47 Chinook carrying sixteen service members arrived to evacuate the reconnaissance team. Before the aircraft could land, it took a hit from a rocket-propelled grenade and exploded.
Murphy, Axelson, and Dietz died in combat shortly after. Though tragedy befell his reconnaissance mission, Luttrell was saved from certain death through the brave selflessness of Murphy. He found refuge in a nearby village and received much-needed medical attention before being evacuated to safety.
President George W. Bush presented Lt. Murphy’s parents with his Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on October 22nd, 2007. He also earned the Silver Star Medal and the Purple Heart.