Somehow lost in all the accolades, tribulations, and congratulations last week to Al Gore for his personal courage and sacrifice in making a movie to warn the world of global warming was the White House announcement that Navy Seal, Lt. Michael P. Murphy has been posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.
The Medal of Honor is bestowed by the president upon military personnel who have distinguished themselves “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.”
The act “must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades.”
Two years after his death in a harrowing firefight on a mountaintop in Afghanistan, President Bush will present the award to Lt. Murphy’s parents and brother in a White House ceremony on October 22, 2007.
Murphy, 29, was leading a four-man reconnaissance and surveillance team during Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan’s rugged Hindu Kush Mountains June 28, 2005, when the team was spotted by Taliban fighters. During the intense battle that followed, Murphy and two of his men – Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson – were killed. A fourth man, then-Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell, was seriously wounded and knocked unconscious, but managed to escape. Luttrell was rescued days later.
Murphy was killed while phoning in for reinforcements. The tragedy continued when enemy fighters shot down one of the transport helicopters carrying the rescue force, killing eight more SEALs and eight Special Forces operators. The 11 SEALs killed marked the largest single-day loss of life for the tight-knit community.
When he deployed overseas, Murphy carried a patch from New York Fire Department’s Engine Company 53 and Ladder Company 43, in Manhattan’s El Barrio neighborhood, “as a symbol of why he was there and what he was doing,” Daniel Murphy said.
“Michael felt that he was doing something important … to root out, capture and kill those who were responsible for 9/11,” he added. “Michael understood the importance of his work.”
To the Murphy family, the announcement of the Medal of Honor isn’t just a personal recognition. “It’s more than just about Michael,” his father said. “It’s about Michael and his team. Michael, first and foremost, was a team player.”
“Eleven SEALs who fought, died and sacrificed for one another,” he added. “There’s no higher calling.”
Sadly, neither the New York Times, The Washington Post nor any other mainstream media outlet has found the space or time to report on Lt. Murphy’s extrordinary courage and personal sacrifice