Michael P Murphy

A Fallen Soldier

Recognizing the Honor of a Son — Together Again

I live in the town of Chappaqua, about forty miles north of New York City. Lt. Michael P.Murphy’s family also lives in the suburbs of New York City, on Long Island. Being in the suburbs is not the same as living in the city, but as a suburban subscriber to the New York Times, I receive a special supplement.

A recent issue of that supplement, published on November 11, 2007, has a long and very well-written piece by Michael Winerip, Parenting: Recognizing the Honor of a Son .

The article appeared on the weekend before Veteran’s Day. It also appeared in the “Parenting” section, and so has much about Lt. Murphy’s family, especially his parents. Here are some excerpts about Lt. Murphy and his parents.


This is Daniel and Maureen Murphy’s third Veterans Day without their son Michael, but it’s different this time. This Veterans Day, so many people now know the story of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, the Navy Seal from Patchogue killed in action in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, at age 29 and posthumously selected for the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, presented by President Bush to his parents on Oct. 22.

“The media treated us very well, the reporting was excellent as far as getting Michael’s story and Michael’s life out,” said Mr. Murphy, 60, a lawyer.

Mr. Murphy, himself a wounded veteran of Vietnam, knows firsthand how differently the press and the public have responded to the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This time, people are not taking it out on returning soldiers,” Mr. Murphy said. “They have been able to draw the distinction: honor the warrior no matter what your attitude about the war.”

Lieutenant Murphy’s mother, who works for a local title company, said, “I haven’t met anybody negative.”

His parents said they never worried whether Michael the boy could take care of himself, but they did fear he was a little too altruistic for his own good. “We always worried he’d get killed standing up for some kid or swimming out to rescue someone,” his father said.

Every few months, something else is named for their son: Lt. Michael P. Murphy Post Office Building in Patchogue; Michael P. Murphy Beach at Lake Ronkonkoma; Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy North Patchogue-Medford Youth Athletic Club Ballfield No. 3 (where the father coached the son).

Mr. Murphy’s own life — as a Vietnam veteran wounded by an enemy grenade; as a prosecutor in the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, used to dealing with the press; as the current law clerk to a State Supreme Court justice in Riverhead; and as a self-described “nonideological,” moderate Republican — has made him an unusually expert and balanced witness to both his son’s death and his son’s elevation to national hero.

His views are not easily pigeonholed.

While he urged his son not to join the military, based on his own experience in Vietnam as “cannon fodder,” he said, he strongly supported his son once he did.

Since combat began in Afghanistan and Iraq, the families of about 4,300 American servicemen and servicewomen have had the visit. For the Murphys, it lasted a week. On the afternoon of June 28, 2005, Michael’s fiancée, Heather Duggan, called saying she had heard a news report about a helicopter carrying Navy Seals that had been downed in Afghanistan. The Murphys did not know it then, but that helicopter was answering their son’s call for help, and when it crashed after being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, eight soldiers and eight Seals died.

That night, a Navy officer visited the Patchogue home where Michael had grown up and where his mother, Maureen, still lives with his brother, John, now 20. (Daniel and Maureen have been divorced for several years, but they have remained close.) The officer told the Murphys that his team was missing. For the next week, the family got updates four times a day from a Seal commander who spent all his waking hours with them.

Because of the rigorous Seal training — of the 196 candidates in Michael’s class, only 28 made it to Seal — the Murphys were hopeful about their son’s chances.

And third, he said, his son would never have seriously considered killing noncombatants.

“He wouldn’t be able to live with himself,” Mr. Murphy said. “Michael’s view was there are more good people in this world than bad, and he gave people the benefit of the doubt. He was definitely not going to kill a 14-year-old boy who would have reminded him of his brother.”

Mr. Murphy said that “even knowing the outcome” he was proud that his son let the herders go.


The conclusion is so heart-wrenching it deserves a special section of its own:

THE only serviceman to win the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan is buried in Section 67, Plot 3710 at Calverton National Cemetery, off Exit 68 of the Long Island Expressway, 12 miles from the home where he grew up. “I go every Friday,” Ms. Murphy said. “I talk to Mike, tell him what’s new. I told him about the Medal of Honor. I said, ‘You probably already know.’ I said, ‘You did good, kid.’”

A new headstone is being cut to add the new honor. The government’s standard white marble markers stick out of the ground only 26 inches, and it was hard fitting in all Lieutenant Murphy’s information. “It took four versions before we got it right,” says the father.

As a veteran, Mr. Murphy, who now lives in Wading River, is entitled to be buried at Calverton and has requested the plot beside his son. “It’s all spelled out in my will,” he says, including the final line he wants etched on his tombstone: “Together Again.”

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November 26, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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