While Penn State alumnus and Navy SEAL Michael Murphy died tragically and too young in a firefight in Afghanistan, his name now lives on with the May christening of the USS Michael Murphy, one of the Navy’s most advanced, state-of-the-art warships.
At a formal ceremony in Bath, Maine, on May 7, the U.S. Navy christened its newest guided-missile destroyer, the USS Michael Murphy. In keeping with Navy tradition, Murphy’s mother, Maureen, broke a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship on what would have been Murphy’s 35th birthday. Murphy’s mother reportedly said, “Happy Birthday, baby,” as she smashed the bottle against the side of the destroyer.
Designated DDG 112, Michael Murphy, the 62nd Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and will contain myriad offensive and defensive weapons, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The ship is 509-feet long (nearly as long as two football fields), weighs 9,200 tons and holds a crew of 323 officers and enlisted personnel.
Photo: Tiffini Jones Vanderwyst
Murphy’s heroism in Afghanistan is the stuff of legends. On June 28, 2005, Lt. Murphy and three other SEALs were on an Afghan mountainside searching for a high-ranking jihadist leader when they came under enemy fire. Realizing that the team was vastly outnumbered, Murphy moved out into the open to radio for help. Although hit by enemy fire, he managed to return fire and transmit his call for assistance.
Murphy’s wounds were fatal. In fact, just one of his team survived the mission that has been called the worst loss of life for the SEALS in the program’s 43-year history.
Murphy, who graduated from Penn State in 1998 with degrees in political science and psychology, is only the fourth Navy SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor. His parents, Daniel and Maureen, were presented with his Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military commendation, by President George W. Bush at a White House ceremony on October 22, 2007.
Penn State has also honored Murphy. In 2008, Murphy was posthumously named a Distinguished Alumni, the University’s highest honor, and was recognized at the Penn State–Ohio State football game, in front of more than 110,000 people, on October 27, 2007. Murphy will also have a legacy on campus as the Class of 2011 is creating the Lt. Micheal P. Murphy/Penn State Veterans Plaza as its class gift. The plaza will be located adjacent to Old Main.
Although he was accepted to several law schools after graduating from Penn State, Murphy was determined to be a Navy SEAL and accepted an appointment to the Navy’s Officer Candidate School in September 2000. Becoming a SEAL—the Navy’s elite special force for missions on sea, air and land—is incredibly difficult, with more than three out of four candidates quitting the school before completing it. Despite the odds against succeeding, Murphy officially became a SEAL in July 2002. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor and then deployed to Jordan, Qatar and Djibouti in Eastern Africa before arriving in Afghanistan in 2005.
At the time of his death, Murphy was engaged to fellow Penn Stater Heather Duggan ’00. He is survived by his brother, John, and his parents. He was buried at Calverton National Cemetery in Long Island, N.Y.