Lt. Michael P. Murphy, fondly referred to by friends and family as “Murph,” was born May 7, 1976 in Smithtown, N.Y. and grew up in the New York City commuter town of Patchogue, N.Y. on Long Island.
Murphy grew up active in sports and attended Patchogue’s Saxton Middle School. In high school, Murphy took a summer lifeguard job at the Brookhaven town beach in Lake Ronkonkoma — a job he returned to each summer through his college years. Murphy graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School in 1994.
Murphy attended Penn State University, where he was an exceptional all-around athlete and student, excelling at ice hockey and graduating with honors. He was an avid reader; his reading tastes ranged from the Greek historian Herodotus to Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” Murphy’s favorite book was Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire,” about the Spartan stand at Thermopylae. In 1998, he graduated with a pair of Bachelor of Arts degrees from Penn State — in political science and psychology.
Following graduation, he was accepted to several law schools, but instead he changed course. Slightly built at 5 feet 10 inches, Murphy decided to attend SEAL mentoring sessions at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point with his sights on becoming a U.S. Navy SEAL. Murphy accepted an appointment to the Navy’s Officer Candidate School at Pensacola, Fla., in September, 2000.
Murphy was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy on Dec. 13, 2000, and began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, Calif., in January 2001, graduating with Class 236. BUD/S is a six-month training course and the first step to becoming a Navy SEAL.
Upon graduation from BUD/S, he attended the Army Jump School, SEAL Qualification Training and SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) school. Lt. Murphy earned his SEAL Trident and checked on board SDV Team (SDVT) 1 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in July of 2002. In October of 2002, he deployed with Foxtrot Platoon to Jordan as the liaison officer for Exercise Early Victor.
Following his tour with SDVT-1, Lt. Murphy was assigned to Special Operations Central Command in Florida and deployed to Qatar in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After returning from Qatar, Lt. Murphy was deployed to the Horn of Africa, Djibouti, to assist in the operational planning of future SDV missions.
In early 2005, Murphy was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 as assistant officer in charge of ALFA Platoon and deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
On June 28, 2005, Lt. Murphy was the officer-in-charge of a four-man SEAL element in support of Operation Red Wing tasked with finding key anti-coalition militia commander near Asadabad, Afghanistan. Shortly after inserting into the objective area, the SEALs were spotted by three goat herders who were initially detained and then released. It is believed the goat herders immediately reported the SEALs’ presence to Taliban fighters.
A fierce gun battle ensued on the steep face of the mountain between the SEALs and a much larger enemy force. Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates. Murphy, intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.
Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire. This deliberate and heroic act deprived him of cover and made him a target for the enemy. While continuing to be fired upon, Murphy made contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance. He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point, he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, Lt. Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.
As a result of Murphy’s call, an MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was sent in as part of the QRF to extract the four embattled SEALs. As the Chinook drew nearer to the fight, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter, causing it to crash and killing all 16 men aboard.
On the ground and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs, continued to fight. By the end of a two-hour gunfight that careened through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz and Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson had fallen. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead. The fourth SEAL, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell, was blasted over a ridge by a rocket-propelled grenade and knocked unconscious. Though severely wounded, the fourth SEAL and sole survivor, Luttrell, was able to evade the enemy for nearly a day; after which local nationals came to his aide, carrying him to a nearby village where they kept him for three more days. Luttrell was rescued by U.S. Forces on July 2, 2005.
By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.
Lt. Murphy was buried at Calverton National Cemetery less than 20 miles from his childhood home. Lt. Murphy’s other personal awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon and National Defense Service Medal.
Lt. Murphy is survived by his mother Maureen Murphy; his father Dan Murphy; and his brother John Murphy. Dan and Maureen Murphy, who were divorced in 1999, remain close friends and continue to live in N.Y. Their son John, 22, attends the New York Institute of Technology, and upon graduation will pursue a career in criminal justice, having been accepted to the New York City Police Deparment.