Warship Named After Fallen L.I. Navy SEAL

Saturday, May 7, 2011  |  Updated 11:30 PM EDT
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Fallen Soldier Has Navy Destroyer Dedicated to Him

Joan Cergol

Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, who was killed while leading a reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines in Afghanistan. A new ship bears his name.

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Fallen Soldier Has Navy Destroyer Dedicated to Him

Medal of Honor recipient's parents christen a ship in his honor today.
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The mother of a Navy SEAL from New York killed in Afghanistan said "Happy birthday, baby'' before smashing a bottle of Champagne against a ship that bears her son's name.

The destroyer under construction at Maine's Bath Iron Works bears the name of Lt. Michael Murphy, a Long Island resident who was killed in a firefight on June 28, 2005, in eastern Afghanistan.  Murphy's nickname had been "The Protector."

The ceremony was held Saturday on what would have been Murphy's 35th birthday, and nearly a week after Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Murphy's mother, Maureen, asked for a moment of silence before reading the names of all 19 service members who died in the 2005 firefight and rescue attempt.

Joining 3,000 spectators were New York firefighters, SEALs from Hawaii and the Special Operations Command's leader.

Murphy, who was 29 when he died, graduated from Pennsylvania State University and was accepted to multiple law schools, but decided he could do more for his country as one of the Navy's elite SEALs — special forces trained to fight on sea, air and land — the same forces that killed bin Laden.

Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y., earned his nickname after getting suspended in elementary school for fighting with bullies who tried to stuff a special-needs child into a locker and for intervening when some youths were picking on a homeless man, said Dan Murphy, a former prosecutor and Army veteran who served in Vietnam.

Maureen Murphy said her son thought he was too young to take a desk job as a lawyer. Instead, he went to officer candidate school, the first step on his journey to become a SEAL officer. He was in training during the Sept. 11 attacks, which shaped his views.

His view was that there are "bullies in the world and people who're oppressed in the world. And he said, 'Sometimes they have to be taken care of,"' she said.

On June 28, 2005, the day he was killed, Murphy was leading a SEAL team in northeastern Afghanistan looking for the commander of a group of insurgents known as the Mountain Tigers.

The Operation Red Wings reconnaissance team rappelled down from a helicopter at night and climbed through rain to a spot 10,000 feet high overlooking a village to keep a lookout. But the mission was compromised the following morning when three local goat herders happened upon their hiding spot.

High in the Hindu Kush mountains, Murphy and Petty Officers Marcus Luttrell of Huntsville, Texas; Matthew Axelson of Cupertino, Calif.; and Danny Dietz of Littleton, Colo.; held a tense discussion of the rules of engagement and the fate of the three goat herders, who were being held at gunpoint.

If they were Taliban sympathizers, then letting the herders go would allow them to alert the Taliban forces lurking in the area; killing them might ensure the team's safety, but there were issues of possible military charges and a media backlash, according to Luttrell, the lone survivor.

Murphy, who favored letting the goat herders go, guided a discussion of military, political, safety and moral implications. A majority agreed with him.

An hour after the herders were released, more than 100 Taliban armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades opened fire, attacking from higher elevation, and maneuvering to outflank the SEALs, said Gary Williams, author of "Seal of Honor," a biography of Murphy.

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