Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Newest Navy destroyer pays tribute to slain SEAL, Afghan war's first Medal of Honor recipient

CALVERTON, N.Y. — The Navy's newest warship will not be named for a former president, distinguished member of Congress or some historic figure from the past.

The USS Michael Murphy, a 510-foot destroyer, is being commissioned this weekend in New York City for a Long Island native and Navy lieutenant who became the first American awarded the Medal of Honor during the war in Afghanistan when he was killed along with two fellow SEALs during an ambush in 2005. He was 29.

"Here is someone who is just like us," said Cmdr. Tom Shultz, the commander of the USS Michael Murphy and its crew of about 300. "We've seen his childhood photos and you look at those photos and in every single one of them we have that same photo of our childhood."

Already wounded, Murphy left a protected position and went to a clearing where he was exposed to gunfire to get a clear signal to contact Bagram Airfield for backup. He was killed along with 16 of his rescuers, whose helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade on June 28, 2005. The only SEAL to survive has since written a book about the ordeal, Lone Survivor, which is being made into a movie starring Mark Wahlberg and Taylor Kitsch.

The naming of a Navy vessel for Murphy is the greatest of a group of tributes to the slain Navy SEAL since his death, said his father, Daniel Murphy. The former lifeguard has a park named after him on Long Island; the Patchogue post office in his hometown bears a monument to Murphy and the others who died; and Penn State University paid tribute to the 1998 graduate last month when it dedicated a veterans' plaza in his name.

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