The USS Michael Murphy is the US Navy’s newest warship, but, unlike the rest of the fleet, it is not named for a former president, distinguished member of Congress, or a historic figure from the past. Instead, the 510-foot destroyer will be named for a Long Island native and Navy lieutenant who was the first American awarded the Medal of Honor in the Afghanistan War.
Michael Murphy was a SEAL who was killed with two fellow SEALs during an ambush in 2005, reports The Washington Post. Commander Tom Shultz, the commander of the USS Michael Murphy and its crew of about 300, stated:
“Here is someone who is just like us. 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.”
Murphy, 29, was already wounded when he left a protected position, entering a clearing that exposed him to gunfire so he could get a clear signal to call Bagram Airfield for backup. He was killed with 16 of his rescuers when their helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade on June 28, 2005.
There was only one SEAL who survived, and his book, Lone Survivor, is being made into a movie that stars Mark Wahlberg and Taylor Kitsch. The naming of the USS Michael Murphy is the greatest in a number of tributes that have been made to the slain Naby SEAL since he passed away seven years ago.
Murphy, who was a former lifeguard, has a park named after him on Long Island; the Patchogue post office in his hometown also bears a monument to Murphy and the others who died that day. Penn State University, which Murphy graduated from in 1998, dedicated a veterans’ plaza to him last month.
The Wall Street Journal notes that Navy vessels are usually named after states or noted Americans. Some names include presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Theodore Roosevelt as well as notable leaders like astronaut John Glenn and former Admiral Hyman Rickover. The Navy also announced that it will name a combat ship for former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a mass shooting and assassination attempt in January of 2011.
The crew of the USS Michael Murphy attended a memorial service this week at Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island where the former SEAL was buried. Murphy’s father, Dan Murphy, stated:
“The crew has so much pride in the fact that they carry on their patch the name USS Michael Murphy. You know Michael grew up as an ordinary young man on Long Island and became a national hero. It’s emotionally trying but fulfilling at the same time.”
The young SEAL’s mother, Maureen, will preside over the Saturday ceremony to commission the USS Michael Murphy on the Hudson River. She has received the honorary title of the ship’s sponsor. Her message to the crew? Maureen stated, “I tell them you’re family and you have to watch each other’s backs.”