By now, thanks to the book and movie Lone Survivor, the world knows the story of the sacrifice Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy made in Afghanistan in 2007. Murphy, from Long Island, and three other Navy SEALs were sent to a remote Afghan village to find and kill a notorious Taliban leader.
The SEALs encountered communications trouble and then were spotted by locals. They engaged the Taliban and fought with incredible valor, but only sniper Marcus Luttrell survived -- hence the book title.
Murphy sacrificed his own life to radio for help, thus allowing rescuers to eventually assist Luttrell, though not before 19 Americans were killed.
Today is Veteran’s Day (Friday, November 11) when we remember the likes of Murphy. Last month, officials on Long Island announced that a new Navy SEAL museum and training facility will be built in West Sayville. The museum will be named after Murphy, the proudly Irish American graduate of Patchogue-Medford High School.
“I am so very proud that this community will be the home of the first Navy SEAL museum in the northeast, paying tribute to a local hero and a true patriot,” State Senator Tom Croci has said.
The SEAL museum should, of course, dedicate plenty of space to Murphy’s life and legacy. And there are other Irish American SEALs who merit attention.
There’s Robert O’Neill, out of Butte, Montana who, as a member of the elite SEAL Team 6, is said to have fired the fatal shots that killed Osama bin Laden. Or Cathal Flynn (who liked to be called “Irish”) who served in Vietnam and later was promoted to rear admiral.
Perhaps what is most impressive about the proposed Long Island facility is that it will not only remember those who have made notable contributions to our nation’s history, but will also train others looking to. This is what Murphy’s father highlighted in comments to CBS news radio.
“Education is important…because it removes from people prejudices, predispositions, superstitions,” Dan Murphy said. “One of (Mike’s) favorite sayings was, ‘Education will set you free.’”
Indeed, this Veteran’s Day it’s hard not to think about the incredible contributions the Murphy family is still making. They have established the Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation and conduct an annual event called the Murph Challenge.
What is the challenge? Not for the faint of heart, that's what: run one mile, do 100 pull ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and close it out with another one mile run.
Such is the stuff Navy SEALs are made of. But the annual Murph Challenge event has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for education scholarships.
Murphy’s parents Dan and Maureen could easily have retreated into solitude once they learned the terrible news about their son. Instead they have chosen to dedicate their time to others.
Dan Murphy is himself a veteran who served and was wounded in Vietnam. In 1970, Murphy was recovering from his wounds in a hospital when he learned that his best friend, another kid from Long Island named Tommy Wynne, was killed in action.
“I asked myself, ‘Why was I out with injuries? I should have been there. Could I have been there? Could I have helped?’” Murphy told The New York Times back in 2007.
The paper noted that, for Murphy, “They never entirely go away, the could-haves, should-haves.”
This, in fact, led Dan Murphy to reach out to “love survivor” Luttrell who, of course, went through his own harrowing experiences. But there was also tension about the degree to which Luttrell and his co-author Patrick Robinson (a British author who lives in Ireland) might have exaggerated certain aspects of Murphy’s actions or beliefs.
Either way, Dan Murphy expressed full support for Luttrell, understanding fully the weight the former SEAL was carrying.
Such are the things we should remember this Veteran’s Day.