Newest Navy destroyer pays tribute to SEAL from NY

Associated Press Modified: October 4, 2012 at 6:30 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012
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CALVERTON, N.Y. (AP) — The U.S. 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 Afghanistan War 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 slew 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.

Navy vessels traditionally bear the names of states or cities or noted Americans, such as former presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt. Others have been named for notable leaders like former senator and astronaut John Glenn or naval titans like former Adm. Hyman Rickover. The Navy announced this year that it would name a combat ship in honor of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011.

Murphy was leading a four-man team hunting a key Taliban leader in mountainous terrain near Asadabad in an encounter known as Operation Red Wing when they were ambushed by about 50 combatants. A wounded Murphy was credited with risking his own life by moving into the open for a better position to transmit a call for help.

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