For a U.S. Navy SEAL, dangerous situations in isolated, treacherous locations are just an average day on the job. This was the case for Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who entered the lonely mountain range of the Hindu Kush between Afghanistan and Pakistan on June 28, 2005. Leading a four-man SEAL element – which included Petty Officers Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson, and Marcus Luttrell – Murphy and his team were tasked with tracking down Ahmad Shah, a known terrorist.
As the team crept through the rugged terrain, three goat herders came upon the SEALs. Just hours after releasing the local nationals, a large enemy force came pouring over the mountains.
A fierce gun battle ensued between the severely outnumbered SEALs and the larger Taliban force. Murphy realized that his team would not last long without reinforcements, so despite his injuries, he moved away from the rocks that were sheltering him to make radio contact with Bagram Air Base. Without the protection of the terrain, Murphy was a prime target for incoming Taliban gunfire.
As bullets riddled his body, Murphy held on long enough to make contact with the Special Operations Forces Quick Reaction Force at headquarters.
Murphy made his way back to his unit, severely wounded, and continued to fight alongside his comrades. The fighting continued for two hours leaving three out of the four SEALs mortally wounded. The Chinook helicopter that responded to Murphy’s call was shot down by the enemy, killing all 16 men aboard.
Luttrell, severely wounded, traveled seven miles to a nearby Afghan village where he was taken in and sheltered from the Taliban. One villager reported Luttrell’s location to a Marine outpost and U.S. forces launched a rescue mission on July 2 that brought him home. The lone survivor of Operation Red Wing was later awarded the Navy Cross. His comrades, Dietz and Axelson, were posthumously awarded Navy Crosses for their heroic actions.
Murphy’s selfless act was honored by President Bush on October 22, 2007, when Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, making him the first Navy Medal of Honor recipient for actions in the Global War on Terror, and the first to be awarded for actions in Operation Enduring Freedom. On May 7, 2008, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter announced that the newest guided-missile destroyer will be named in honor of Lt. Michael Murphy