Lt. Michael P. Murphy considered for Medal of Honor

Red Shrek

War Hero
Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL from Patchogue who died in Afghanistan after risking his life to save his colleagues during a 2005 battle, is being considered for the nation's highest combat award -- the Medal of Honor.

If he is granted the award, Murphy would become only the third person to earn that highest honor since President George W. Bush sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 and later to Iraq. Often referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor, the award is presented by the president.

"We have spoken with the Navy and they have confirmed he is under consideration," Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said Wednesday. "I can only say it is hard to imagine a more deserving individual."

Murphy's parents, Daniel and Maureen, said they would be honored if their son won the Medal of Honor.

"Michael wasn't into medals and calling attention to himself," Daniel Murphy said. "But all these people are saying Michael's actions are so special he deserves the Medal of Honor."

Murphy, who was 29, was killed in a fierce firefight in mountainous terrain along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He led a four-man special reconnaissance unit that was secreted into the Hindu Kush mountains along the border in June 2005.

The unit was reported to be trailing a high-ranking terror leader near 10,000-foot peaks when they were ambushed and overrun by scores of insurgent fighters on June 28, according to Newsday interviews and media reports. The newspaper Navy Times reported in October that Murphy's actions -- "far outnumbered and surrounded by enemy" -- were being reviewed for the U.S. Navy's first Medal of Honor awarded since the Vietnam War.

A troop transport helicopter that sped to their rescue with eight Navy SEALs and eight Army commandos aboard crashed after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. All aboard were killed. A single member of Murphy's team managed to elude capture, and eventually was reunited with U.S. forces.

Relatives of the SEALS have said the lone American survivor told them that Murphy came to his rescue when he was trapped by insurgents during the battle, according to the interviews and reports.

The survivor also told relatives that Murphy was shot when he climbed to higher ground and into the open to send an electronic call for help. Wounded, Murphy completed the call, then continued fighting. It is this action that is believed to be at the heart of his consideration for the Medal of Honor.

Two of Murphy's colleagues who were killed in the firefight -- Sonar Technician 2/C Matthew G. Axelson and Gunner's Mate 2/C Danny Dietz -- were awarded the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, during a posthumous ceremony in September.

The lone survivor, whom the Navy has not named because he has returned to covert duty, also received the Navy Cross in a private ceremony. Conspicuously, Murphy did not receive an award at that time and Navy officials typically do not comment on such matters.

On Wednesday, Cmdr. Gregory Geisen, a Navy spokesman, said Murphy is being considered for a high honor, but he said the Navy would not release any details.

"Lt. Murphy was submitted for an award commensurate with his actions in Afghanistan," Geisen said.

But military observers have said that, based on their understanding of what happened during the firefight, as well as Murphy's actions, he is deserving of the military's highest accolade.

His family and friends describe him as a young man who sought out the toughest unit of the military and persevered until he was named a SEAL. He wore a New York Fire Department patch on his uniform. Last fall, the Patchogue Post Office was renamed in his honor.

"My best guess is that Lt. Murphy will be granted the Medal of Honor based on the fact that three others won the Navy Cross and Murphy was the leader who assured that at least one of them survived," said retired Marine Lt. Col. Matthew Dodd, senior editor of the online magazine "DefenseWatch."

To Daniel Murphy, his son's life and heroic death are a source of comfort.

"I think if he is awarded it, it will be a reflection of what we already know about Michael. His bravery, his focus, his determination, his spirit of never give up."