The medal was presented to his father and mother,Daniel and Maureen Murphy. It is the first Medal of Honor for combat in Afghanistan.
“You might say that Michael Murphy was born to be a Navy SEAL,” the president said in the East Room before Murphy's parents,younger brother,John,Vice President Dick Cheney and Sens. Ted Stevens,R-Alaska,and Chuck Schumer,D-N.Y.,and many of Murphy's friends and fellow Navy SEALs.
“Beyond his physical strength,Michael Murphy was blessed with a powerful sense of right and wrong,” the president said. “Michael's passion for helping others led him to become a caring brother,a tutor,a lifeguard,and eventually,a member of the United States Armed Forces.”
In June 2005,Murphy led a four-man unit deep inside enemy lines in the mountainous region near Asadabad,Afghanistan,looking for a Taliban leader.
The crew was spotted and came under attack. Murphy exposed himself to fire in an attempt to receive a clear signal on his radio to call for help. The helicopter that came to rescue Murphy's group was shot down.
The day of Murphy's death,June 28,2005,had the largest number of American casualties in Afghanistan since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was also the deadliest day for Navy Special Warfare forces since World War II.
“Though severely wounded,he said ‘thank you' before hanging up,and returned to the fight – before losing his life,” Bush said. “With this medal,we acknowledge a debt that will not diminish with time – and can never be repaid. Our nation is blessed to have volunteers like Michael who risk their lives for our freedom.”
Murphy's teary-eyed brother and Marcus Luttrell,the only survivor from Murphy's mission,were also on hand. Murphy's mother was too “overwhelmed” to speak,saying only,”I am so proud of him.”
His father told reporters after the ceremony,”Michael was an all-American boy,” acknowledging that when his son was deployed to Afghanistan it was “personal” because of his reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“It was payback time for all those who died. It was his opportunity to prevent it from happening again. Michael was a New York boy,” his father said.
Michael Murphy was born in Smithtown,N.Y.,and grew up in Patchogue,N.Y.,on Long Island. He attended Patchogue-Medford High School,where he was a member of the National Honor Society and played varsity football.
“He was well-liked and respected,a role model,” said Principal Manuel Sanzone,who was a dean and assistant principal when Murphy was a student. “He was exceptional in the classroom as well. You could tell he was one of those driven students. From the beginning he was very focused and dedicated about where he wanted to go in life. He was interested in serving his country.”
Murphy graduated with honors from Penn State University in 1998. Michael Berkman,undergraduate director in Penn State's political science department,said Murphy was an excellent student and a passionate hockey player.
Professor of Political Science David Myers described Murphy as “well-prepared,conscientious” and “extremely patriotic.” He said Murphy had talked about being a lawyer,but was “very shaken up” by the attacks on the first World Trade Center in New York in 1993.
“He was torn as what to do,” Myers said. “The attacks had a big impact on him. They convinced him that it was a high priority. He felt the United States was in a very dangerous position and people should protect the United States.”
Murphy,29,was engaged at the time of his death.
Sonar Technician Second Class Matthew Axelson and Mate Second Class Danny Dietz were also killed that day. Both received the Navy Cross.
“We're here today to celebrate our hero,Michael,” his father said. “Michael believed in this nation and what it stands for. They did the right thing.”