LT Michael P. Murphy was born May 7, 1976 in Smithtown, NY and grew up in the small town of Patchogue located on Long Island’s south shore. He grew up active in sports and attended Patchogue’s Saxton Middle School. In high school, Murphy took a summer lifeguard job at the Brookhaven town beach in Lake Ronkonkoma — a job he kept each summer throughout his college years. A member of the National Honor Society, Murphy graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School in 1994.
Murphy attended Penn State University and was an exceptional all-around student athlete excelling at ice hockey and graduating with honors. An avid reader; his reading interests ranged from the Greek historian Herodotus to Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” Murphy’s favorite book was Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire,” about the Spartan stand at Thermopylae. In 1998, he graduated with a pair of Bachelor of Arts degrees from Penn State — in political science and psychology.
Following graduation, he was accepted to several law schools including Fordham and the University of Tennessee, but instead he changed course. Although slightly built at 5 feet 10 inches, Murphy attended SEAL mentoring sessions at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy under the mentorship of retired Captain Andrew Bisset; his sights on becoming a U.S. Navy SEAL. Murphy accepted an appointment to the Navy’s Officer Candidate School at Pensacola, FL, in Sept. 2000.
The Making of A Warrior
Commissioned as an ensign in the Navy on Dec. 13, 2000, Murphy began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, CA, in Jan. 2001, graduating with Class 236. BUD/S, an intense six-month training course with just over a 20% completion rate, is the first step to becoming a Navy SEAL.
Upon graduation from BUD/S, he attended the Army Jump School, SEAL Qualification Training and SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) School. LT Murphy earned his SEAL Trident and checked on board SDV Team (SDVT) 1 in Pearl Harbor, HI in July of 2002. He deployed with Foxtrot Platoon to Jordan as the liaison officer for Exercise Early Victor in Oct. 2002.
Following his tour with SDVT-1, LT Murphy was assigned to Special Operations Central Command in Florida and deployed to Qatar in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Promoted early to the rank of lieutenant junior grade after returning from Qatar, he was deployed to the Horn of Africa, Djibouti, to assist in the operational planning of future SDV missions.
Again having been promoted early to the rank of Lieutenant, Murphy was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 as assistant officer in charge of ALFA Platoon in Jan. 2005 deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
On June 28, 2005, LT Murphy was the officer-in-charge of a four-man SEAL element in support of Operation Red Wing tasked with finding key anti-coalition militia commander near Asadabad, Afghanistan. Shortly after inserting into the objective area, the SEALs were spotted by three goat herders who were initially detained and then released. It is believed the goat herders immediately reported the SEALs’ presence to Taliban fighters.
A fierce gun battle ensued on the steep face of the mountain between the SEALs and a much larger enemy force. Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds, Murphy risked his own life to save the lives of his teammates. Intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, Murphy unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.
Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire. This deliberate and heroic act deprived him of cover and made him a target for the enemy. While continuing to be fired upon, Murphy made contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance. He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point, he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, LT Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.
As a result of Murphy’s call, an MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers, was sent as part of the QRF to extract the four embattled SEALs. As the Chinook drew nearer to the fight, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter, causing it to crash killing all 16 men aboard.
On the ground and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs continued to fight. By the end of a two-hour gunfight that careened through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz and Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson had fallen. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead. The fourth SEAL, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell was able to evade the enemy and was rescued by U.S. Forces on July 2, 2005.
By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, LT Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.
With full military honors, LT Murphy was buried at Calverton National Cemetery less than 20 miles from his childhood home. His personal awards include the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, National Defense Serviced Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 1 star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Navy Expert Rifle, Navy Expert Pistol, gold parachute wings, and the Navy Trident.
LT Murphy is survived by his mother Maureen Murphy; his father Daniel Murphy; and his brother John Murphy. Dan and Maureen Murphy, who were divorced in 1999, remain friends and continue to live in NY. Their son John graduated from the New York Institute of Technology is currently a police officer with the Southampton Police Department and recently graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy.