President Bush shook hands yesterday with Daniel Murphy, father of Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy of Patchogue, N.Y.
Lt. Murphy: Bush Presents Navy SEAL with highest honor
WASHINGTON » President Bush publicly honored a fallen Pearl Harbor-based Navy SEAL yesterday by presenting his grieving parents with the Medal of Honor -- and privately honored their sacrifice by wearing a dog tag they had given him moments before.
The president posthumously awarded the nation's highest military honor for valor to Lt. Michael Murphy of Patchogue, N.Y. -- the first given for combat in Afghanistan.
Before the emotional White House ceremony, Murphy's parents, Dan and Maureen, met with Bush and gave him a gold dog tag in tribute to their son.
"What we were most touched by was that the president immediately put that on underneath his shirt, and when he made the presentation of the Medal of Honor, he wore that against his chest," said the father.
Dan Murphy said that after the ceremony Bush told the family, "I was inspired by having Michael next to my chest."
The father, who fought back tears during the ceremony, said they were "deeply moved" by Bush's gesture.
"It was very emotional on everybody's part," said Maureen Murphy.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said in a news release that since Murphy was based at Pearl Harbor, "he was also part of our ohana."
"We are proud of his heroism, his leadership and his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice to save others," said Inouye, who is also a Medal of Honor recipient.
"We join his family, friends and former colleagues in mourning his passing," Inouye said. "As a Medal of Honor recipient, Lt. Murphy will always be remembered as one who exemplified extraordinary heroism and the best traditions of the U.S. military."
Bush presided over a solemn ceremony honoring Murphy's battlefield decision to expose himself to deadly enemy fire to make a desperate call for help for his elite combat team.
"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."
"There's a lot of awards in the military, but when you see a Medal of Honor, you know whatever they went through is pretty horrible. You don't congratulate anyone when you see it," said Marcus Luttrell, the lone member of Murphy's team to survive the firefight with the Taliban.
Murphy, Luttrell and two other SEALs were searching for a terrorist when their mission was compromised after they were spotted by locals, who presumably alerted the Taliban to their presence. An intense gunbattle ensued, with more than 50 anti-coalition fighters swarming around the outnumbered SEALs.
Although wounded, Murphy is credited with risking his own life by moving into the open for a better position to transmit a call for help.
Still under fire, Murphy provided his unit's location and the size of the enemy force. At one point he was shot in the back, causing him to drop the mobile phone. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. He then returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle. 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.
By the end of the two-hour gunfight, Murphy and two of his comrades were dead. An estimated 35 Taliban were killed.