Navy destroyer named for Penn State alum killed in Afghanistan

University Park, Pa. — The U.S. Navy has honored Michael Murphy, a Penn State alumnus and Naval lieutenant who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions in Afghanistan in 2005, with the naming of its newest missile destroyer.

Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced at a ceremony on May 7 in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., that the new Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer will be named the USS Michael Murphy after the Navy SEAL. The ceremony marked the dedication of Michael P. Murphy Memorial Park in Murphy's hometown. The park contains a black granite wall memorializing Murphy and the other members lost during Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan. In the center of the memorial is a black granite stone bearing a picture of Murphy and his Medal of Honor.

"Michael Murphy's name which will be forever synonymous with astonishing courage under fire will now be associated with one of the U.S. Navy's most technologically advanced, most powerful and most capable warships," Winter said, according to a Navy press release.

Murphy was killed while leading an intelligence mission behind enemy lines June 27 and 28, 2005.

The 29-year-old Murphy, a Patchogue, N.Y. native and 1998 Penn State graduate with a degree in political science, was the officer-in-charge of a SEAL team tasked with locating a high-level Taliban militia leader to provide intelligence for a mission to capture local leadership and disrupt enemy activity. Local Taliban sympathizers discovered the SEAL team and revealed its location to Taliban fighters, who moved on the SEAL team on a mountaintop. The firefight that ensued pushed the element farther into enemy territory and left all four SEALs wounded.

The SEALs were outnumbered more than four to one. Understanding the gravity of the situation, Murphy, already wounded, deliberately moved from cover into the open where he took and returned fire while transmitting a call for help for his teammates. Shot through the back while radioing for help, Murphy completed his transmission while returning fire. The call ultimately led to the rescue of one severely wounded team member, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, and the recovery of the remains of Murphy and Gunner's Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz and Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson.

Eight more SEALs and eight Army "Nightstalker" special operations personnel comprising the initial reinforcement also lost their lives when their helicopter was shot down before they could engage the enemy. The entire battle, the culmination of Operation Redwing, resulted in the worst single day loss of life for Naval Special Warfare personnel since World War II.

In 2007, Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest honor for military valor, and was also inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon. Penn State honored his memory and his receipt of the Medal of Honor on Oct. 29, 2007. 

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Last Updated November 18, 2010