By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 22, 2007 - President Bush today posthumously presented the Medal of Honor earned by Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL who sacrificed his life in an attempt to save fellow SEALs during a fierce battle with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The Medal of Honor, accepted by Murphy's parents, Maureen and Dan Murphy, during a White House ceremony, is the highest military decoration. Murphy's is the first Medal of Honor awarded for service in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
"Today we add Lieutenant Michael Murphy's name to the list of recipients who have made the ultimate sacrifice," Bush said. "By presenting Michael Murphy's family with the Medal of Honor that he earned, a grateful nation remembers the courage of this proud Navy SEAL."
On June 28, 2005, as Murphy led a four-man SEAL team in search of key terrorist commander, the unit came under attack by some 50 Taliban fighters. The lieutenant is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates, according to a summary of action published by the Navy.
Despite intense combat around him, Murphy -- already wounded in the firefight -- moved into the open where he could gain a better transmission signal and request backup from headquarters. At one point, Murphy was shot in the back, causing him to drop the transmitter. The lieutenant picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy as they closed in.
By the time the two-hour gunfight had concluded, Murphy and two others SEALs had been killed. An estimated 35 Taliban died in the fighting.
As a somber postscript to Murphy's bravery, the helicopter that he requested crashed after being struck by a rocket- propelled grenade, killing everyone on board. In total, 19 Americans died in what Bush referred to as "the deadliest for Navy Special Warfare forces since World War II."
The president characterized Murphy as a born Navy SEAL.
"SEALs get their name from operating by sea, air and land, and even as a toddler, Michael could find his way through any obstacle," Bush said. "When he was just 18 months old, he darted across a neighbor's yard and dove into the swimming pool. By the time his frantic parents reached him, Michael had swum to the other side with a big smile on his face."
In addition to his physical strength, Bush said Murphy's strong moral character also was apparent at an early age.
"One day in school, he got into a scuffle sticking up for a student with a disability. It's the only time his parents ever got a phone call from the principal, and they couldn't have been prouder," Bush said. "Michael's passion for helping others led him to become a caring brother, a tutor, a life guard and eventually a member of the United States armed forces."
The president welcomed Murphy's parents and brother, John, who hail from Patchogue, N.Y., to the White House's East Room, noting that Murphy's decision to join the U.S. military was not easily accepted by his family. "As a Purple Heart recipient during Vietnam, Michael's father understood the sacrifices that accompany a life of service. He also understood that his son was prepared to make these sacrifices," Bush added.
Murphy is remembered by fellow SEALs as a wisecracking friend who went by "Mikey" or "Murph," a patriot who wore a New York City firehouse patch on his uniform in honor of the heroes of 9/11, Bush said.
"And they remember an officer who respected their opinions and led them with an understated yet unmistakable sense of command. Together Michael and his fellow SEALs deployed multiple times around the world in the war against the extremists and radicals," Bush said. "And while their missions were often carried out in secrecy, their love of country and devotion to each other was always clear."
Murphy is one of three servicemembers to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for gallantry in action during the war on terror. The president has presented medals to the families of Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith and Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who died in Iraq.