The US will award the Medal of Honor to Lt. Michael P. Murphy posthumously for his courage and determination to save the lives of his team at the expense of his own. The announcement, made Thursday, makes Murphy the first sailor to be so honored since the Vietnam War and the first recipient for action in Afghanistan. Murphy’s story reveals much about how America fights the war on terror, and it demonstrates once again the courage and honor in one of America’s finest and most elite fighting units:
Two years after his death in Afghanistan, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, who grew up in Patchogue and joined the elite Navy SEALs after college, has been awarded the nation’s highest battlefield award, the Medal of Honor, for a valiant attempt to save the lives of comrades that cost him his own.
“This tells the country what we already know about Michael — that he was a hero,” his father, Daniel Murphy, said after receiving the news Thursday that the White House had made the announcement of the award shortly after noon Thursday. …
That month, Murphy and three other SEALs — Petty Officer Matt Axelson, 29, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, 25 — were inserted by helicopter onto a remote mountaintop near the border. They were four men on a secret mission to track a high-ranking Taliban warlord, Newsday reported last May. But they were discovered first by an Afghan goat herder who stumbled upon their hiding place in a mountainside forest. Not long after, the four SEALs were surrounded by dozens of armed insurgents, and a fierce battle ensued.
The lone survivor of the incident, Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell, 29, of Texas, has called Murphy, the team’s leader, “an iron-souled warrior of colossal, almost unbelievable courage.” According to Luttrell’s account, as told to Navy superiors and in a recently published book, Murphy displayed “an extreme act of valor” when he ran into the open — and suffered a bullet wound when he did — in a last-ditch attempt to call for help and save his fellow SEALs.
Some wonder why hear of no El Alameins, no D-Days, no Iwo Jimas in the war on terror. They believe that a lack of glorious battlefield triumphs mean that we make no progress. However, men like Murphy and the SEALs in action on the ground fight a much different kind of war — a quieter, deadlier war that has a special nobility of its own. Without men like Murphy and the other commandos at work, we would have to fall back to a strategy that Barack Obama once accused the military of using — “air raiding villages and killing civilians” that would not only be inhumane but counterproductive as well. These quiet warriors don’t just save American lives, but Afghan and Pakistani lives as well.
This necessarily puts them at higher risk, but they accept that gladly in service to our nation. Murphy, like all other SEALs and commandos, volunteered for the opportunity to serve in just such a situation. Men like Murphy would not panic at an adverse situation, and leaders of his caliber would not hesitate to risk his life to save those of his men.
I’m blessed to know a SEAL and to call him my friend. He’s served his country for over 30 years, and he tells me about the closeness of the SEAL community where he lives — and where he also serves in a first-responder capacity when not on active duty. It’s the kind of tradition that makes America both proud and humble, because one cannot demand this devotion or even request it — it must be given. Lt. Murphy gave his last full measure of devotion in the highest and most honorable tradition of our military, and it’s only fitting that he receive his nation’s highest honor.
Godspeed, Lt. Michael Murphy. You have honored us all.