On Tuesday, June 28, the 17-year anniversary of the tragic day of Operation Red Wings, the Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy Navy SEAL Museum held its ribbon cutting in West Sayville to a crowd of over 1,000 people attending to honor “Suffolk’s most decorated son,” according to Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone.
Traffic and parking started at the lot of the West Sayville Golf Course as early as 9 a.m. for the 11 a.m. event, with elected officials arriving early to meet with other VIPs in attendance.
Among the most honored at the event were Lt. Murphy’s family, father Dan Murphy, himself a decorated veteran, and his brother, John Murphy, along with other relatives.
The Lt. Michael P. Murphy division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets provided the presentation of colors, and the Suffolk County Police Department Emerald Society Pipe Band gave a sense of gravitas and somber ambiance.
Rev. Robert J. Coyle, the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, who presided over Lt. Murphy’s religious burial in 2005, gave the invocation.
“We gather to remember, to celebrate, to lead. Today is to honor the life and legacy of Michael Patrick Murphy… native son of Long Island, a Navy SEAL, an American hero. We remember the day he sacrificed his life for his team and his country… there is no greater love than this, says the Lord, to lay down one’s life for his friends,” said Coyle.
After a ground-breaking ceremony on Nov. 16, 2017, some delays mired the construction and timeline of the museum, including a three-month shutdown during the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
Dan Murphy, who gave the welcoming address, honored two other Gold Star families in attendance.
The building is the culmination of a vision back in 2016 by the Murphy family, the Sea Cadets’ 13 building committee members, and the board of trustees, and includes a training facility, time labor supplies, and equipment. They were able to build a $5 million museum for less than $2 million.
Former president George W. Bush was unable to attend in person, but sent a heartfelt recorded message.
“From the earliest days of World War II, Navy Special Forces have occupied a special place in American military history. Those who have earned the right to wear the Navy SEAL trident are part of one of the most dynamic and capable fighting forces in the world. This honored site in West Sayville will pay tribute to the enduring accomplishment of all of them, including Michael Murphy.
“Little Murph started his frogman training not far from there, swimming from one end of a lake to another… On the other side of the ocean, in 2005, his gallantry went above and beyond the call of duty and made Michael the first to receive the Medal of Honor for combat in Afghanistan,” said former President Bush.
Operation Red Wings was “the worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began nearly six years ago. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II,” according to the museum website.
On June 28, 2005, while behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the altitude of approximately 10,000 feet.
The SEALs, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, were scouting Ahmad Shah—a terrorist in his mid-30s who grew up in the adjacent mountains just to the south.
Shah led a guerrilla group known to locals as the “Mountain Tigers” that had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border.
A firefight erupted between the four SEALs, who were outnumbered by more than 50 anti-coalition militia.
Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates.
Murphy’s “undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death” was the impetus behind Murphy being able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.
An MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was sent in as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs.
As the Chinook raced to the battle, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter, killing all 16 men aboard.
On the ground and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs—Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz and Axelson—continued the fight. By the end of the two-hour gunfight, Murphy, Axelson, and Dietz had been killed. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead.
“The Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community will forever remember June 28, 2005, and the heroic efforts and sacrifices of our special operators. We hold with reverence the ultimate sacrifice that they made while engaged in that fierce firefight on the front lines of the global war on terrorism.”
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