WASHINGTON – In a somber, understated ceremony in the White House East Room, President Bush on Monday awarded the Medal of Honor to a Navy SEAL mortally wounded two years ago on a hillside in Afghanistan after he sent out an emergency call for reinforcements and continued firing at Taliban insurgents.
The medal, given to Lt. Michael P. Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., is the nation’s highest military honor. This is the first one the president has bestowed for action in Afghanistan.
“With this medal, we acknowledge a debt that will not diminish with time – and can never be repaid,” the president said, with the lieutenant’s parents, Daniel and Maureen Murphy, seated in front of him.
Murphy and the others in his four-member team were conducting surveillance in a rugged part of Konar province on June 28, 2005, when anti-coalition militia sympathizers discovered them and reported their position to Taliban fighters, according to the citation that accompanied the medal. Some 30 to 40 insurgents besieged them.
With the enemy closing in, the president said, Murphy tried to call for reinforcements. “With complete disregard for his own life, he moved into a clearing where his phone would get reception,” Bush added.
That move – “a deliberate heroic act,” the president said – exposed Murphy to enemy fire. He completed the call, remaining composed enough to end it by saying, “Thank you,” the president said, and continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded.
Only one of the SEALs on Murphy’s team survived. Eight other SEALs and eight soldiers were killed when the MH-47 Chinook helicopter sent to rescue the team was brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade.