In a White House ceremony today at 2:30 PM, President Bush will award a posthumous Medal of Honor to the family of Navy LT Michael P. Murphy. For Operation Red Wing he led a 3-man SEAL recon team that was taken under fire by several dozen Taliban in June 2005. When his commo man was wounded, Murphy had to expose himself to enemy fire to radio for a rescue chopper (shot down upon arrival; all aboard killed).
Though shot in the back while doing so, he completed that call and, multiply wounded, returned to the team, now engaged in a desperate battle. Some 2 hours later, only one, Luttrell, remained alive. There is a complete account of his selfless heroism at this link.
On Tuesday October 23 at 11:00a.m., LT Murphy will be inducted into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, where all Medal of Honor recipients are honored.
LT Michael Murphy is the first member of the US armed forces to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions above & beyond the call of duty in Afghanistan.
The Medal of Honor originated as a US Navy award in 1861. Legislation for an Army Medal came a year later.
Those interested in reading Medal of Honor citations from all wars and pertinent information about the Medal should go to this site. It might be the best time you spend today. If there is one phrase descriptive of al those actions it is "selfless valor" -- putting your life on the line to protect fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines or Coastguardsmen or to rescue them. Of the 464 Medals of Honor awarded during WW2, 266 were posthumous. For Vietnam, it was 154 out of 245. Amazingly, 14 heroes representing the Army, Navy and Marine Corps earned two Medals of Honor for separate actions. Read about them here.
The texts of the citations for posthumous awards are not mere words, they are sacred texts, for they describe what in essence is perhaps ultimately unfathomable -- the decision to sacrifice your life in Christ-like fashion, for your fellow man. All of the citations are inspirational and will leave you brimming with awe, admiration and gratitude.
That there are lessons to be learned goes without saying. I would suggest that Americans take some time tomorrow to meditate on the actions of LT Murphy, on those of all Medal of Honor recipients, and find therein the impetus to re-dedicate themselves to unswerving support for all US armed forces fighting the global war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere; to re-armor themselves with implacable will to persevere in this fight until victory is achieved.
John B. Dwyer is a military historian.