'Iron-Souled Warrior' Awarded First Medal of Honor for Afghanistan Service

By Blankenship, Janie | VFW Magazine, January 2008 | Go to article overview

'Iron-Souled Warrior' Awarded First Medal of Honor for Afghanistan Service


Blankenship, Janie, VFW Magazine


Lt. Michael Murphy receives nation's highest honor for sacrificing his life in an effort to save his fellow SEALs.

From an early age, Navy Lt. Michael Murphy was known as the "protector" for the way he looked after those who couldn't stand up for themselves. It's a tide he kept until the day he died trying to save his fellow SEALs on a remote mountaintop in eastern Afghanistan.

For his heroic actions on June 28, 2005, Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor-the first awarded for service in Afghanistan and the first for a sailor since the Vietnam War.

In an Oct. 22 ceremony at the White House, parents Dan and Maureen Murphy accepted the medal on behalf of their son. A Patchogue, N.Y., native, Murphy is the 18th Long Islander to be awarded the nation's highest honor.

"It's almost like a snapshot of how he lived his life," Maureen told Newsday. "We know how he lived his fife, but now the nation knows."

Murphy and his tiiree men were on a mission-Operation Redwing-to track a high-ranking Taliban warlord when their cover was blown by a goat herder. Soon they came under attack from dozens of armed insurgents and were pinned down. The 29-year-old Murphy was shot while running into the open to radio Bagram Air Base for help.

Tragically, the rescue helicopter he called in was shot down, killing 16 U.S.' troops on board, including eight SEALs. Among those was 28-year-old James Suh, one of Murphy's closest friends. It proved to be the deadliest day for SEALs since the program began in 1962. (Five were killed in an accidental helicopter crash in Vietnam on June 23, 1970.)

Murphy, Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson and Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz were killed as they tried to get down the mountain. Blasted over a ridge by a rocket-propelled grenade, Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell is the lone survivor of the firelight, having been rescued by a local shepherd. He later called Murphy "an iron-souled warrior of colossal, almost unbelievable courage."

"Mikey took a bullet straight to the back," Luttrell told Navy Times. "I saw the blood spurt from his chest. He slumped forward, dropping his phone and rifle. But he braced himself, grabbed them both and once more put the phone to his ear. …

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