The New York Post, this morning:
President Bush yesterday publicly honored fallen Navy SEAL Michael Murphy of Long Island by presenting his grieving parents with the Medal of Honor — and privately recognized their sacrifice by wearing a dog tag they’d given him moments earlier. The nation’s highest military honor for valor was presented by the president at an emotional gathering to Murphy’s parents, Dan and Maureen, of Patchogue — the first given for heroic combat in Afghanistan.
“What we were most touched by was that the president immediately put that on underneath his shirt,” Dan Murphy, who fought back tears during the ceremony, said of giving Bush the dog tag during an earlier private meeting in the White House. “And when he made the presentation of the Medal of Honor, he wore that against his chest.”
The gold dog tag bore Lt. Murphy’s name, rank and date of death en graved on one side, officials said. On the other is a hologram of the fallen warrior in his Navy whites upon graduating from SEAL training. The White House declined to release a photograph of the dog tag. Following the ceremony, Dan Murphy said Bush told the family: “I was inspired by having Michael next to my chest.”
After the 9/11 attacks, fighting for his country became a very personal mission for Michael Murphy, who died before his 30th birthday, his father said.
“It was payback time as far as he was concerned,” Dan Murphy said.
“He and his team knew that they were going to the land of those that planned, plotted, recruited and attacked New York City. If anything, Michael was a New York boy.”
Vice President Dick Cheney, past Medal of Honor recipients and a group of Murphy’s buddies also attended the ceremony.
His mother, Maureen, wore on her lapel a pin of an angel and a bejeweled American flag. Around her neck she wore a tiny gold crucifix. “I am so proud of him,” she said. “It’s such an honor to be asked to come here. I’m just so overwhelmed.”
Bush told of the young Murphy growing up with a “powerful sense of right and wrong.” There was the only time his parents got a call from school with Murphy in trouble: He’d gotten into a fight sticking up for a disabled kid.
Bush told how Murphy wore a New York City firehouse patch on his uniform to honor those who died in 9/11. One of his buddies nodded. Another chuckled. But when the president began recounting the fiery day in the scabrous mountains of Afghanistan, they all turned very serious. One wiped his eyes. “While their missions were often carried out in secrecy, their love of country and devotion to each other was always clear,” Bush said.
“On June 28, 2005, Michael would give his life for these ideals.”
The New York Daily News, this morning:
The young SEAL fought with “a New York City firehouse patch on his uniform in honor of the heroes of 9/11,” Bush said — a bond underscored by the presence of Firefighter Nate Evans of Engine 53, whose unit’s patch Murphy wore when he fell.
Murphy, 29, proved his mettle on a 10,000-foot mountain on the Pakistan border, when his SEAL team was attacked by Afghan militants during a secret mission to find an Al Qaeda-linked militant named Ahmad Shah. Bush said the SEALs “launched a valiant counterattack while cascading from cliff to cliff.”
Murphy was the first hit and one of the last to fall. He and his men killed several dozen attackers with sniper rifles as they tumbled downhill, military officials said. Finally, “with complete disregard for his own life,” Murphy exposed himself to fire to make a cell phone call for help, Bush said. Noting that Murphy was struck again, he still managed to say “thank you” to those coming to his rescue, Bush said.
A U.S. helicopter sent to rescue the men was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 aboard. It was the worst single-day death toll for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor, sat staring at the floor. His bestselling book, “Lone Survivor,” which Bush called “riveting,” stirred controversy by revealing that Murphy took a vote on whether to kill three Afghan goatherds, including a young boy, who stumbled on the SEALs.
Trained for such an occurrence, Murphy freed the unarmed civilians, who the Navy believes ratted them out to the Taliban. Bush hinted at that fateful choice when he said Murphy “was blessed with a powerful sense of right and wrong.”
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005.
While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged, enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four-member team.
Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of his team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into an open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team.
In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, courageous actions, and extraordinary devotion to duty, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.