By now, most people know the story of “Lone Survivor.” The tale of a SEAL mission in Afghanistan gone wrong has been told in a bestselling book, a well-known movie starring Mark Wahlberg, and in countless interviews with the Lone Survivor himself, Marcus Luttrell. At the time it happened 17 years ago (hard to believe it’s been that long), it was the greatest loss of life in one day in the special operations community. We lost 11 SEALs and 8 Night Stalkers.
This piece isn’t to rehash the actions of that day back in June of 2005 but to tell the story of another day a few weeks later. It’s a much more private and seldom told story, although it did appear in the book SEAL of Honor: Operations Red Wings and the life of LT Michael P. Murphy as told by Murph’s parents, Dan and Maureen.
A Little Background
LT Micheal P. Murphy led the four-person SEAL recon element of Operation Red Wings. Murph was an honors graduate of Penn State University and had been accepted to law school when he decided to become a SEAL. At first, his father, Dan, a Navy veteran wounded in Vietnam, was against his oldest son’s decision to join the military. He did not want to see him go through the pain and suffering that he did due to combat. But, in time, the elder Murphy came around when Michael explained how it would be far worse for him to spend years behind a desk wondering, “what if? “.
After a lengthy firefight, and when every team member had been wounded and needed care, Murphy left his cover and concealment in favor of an area where he could get a clear satellite signal to call in a quick reaction force. Ever the gentleman, even while taking rounds, Murphy was sure to say “thank you” as he ended his last call.
Memorial Service and Burial
On the fourth of July, 2005, a US military recovery team found LT Murphy’s remains. He was returned to the United States. Nine days later, on the thirteenth of July, Murph was buried with full military honors at Calverton National Cemetary, Calverton, New York, Section 67, grave number 3710. This is fewer than 20 miles from his childhood home.
A Memorable Phone Call
It had been a long, trying day. At the end of their son’s graveside service, Dan and Maureen were walking back to their car when Maureen’s phone rang. Understandably, she wasn’t inclined to take a call just then, but something motivated her to check her phone. She picked it up and saw that she had just received a text message.
Maureen read the text: “Momma, home safe and sound. Mike”
Her hands began to tremble, and she dropped the phone. She let out an audible gasp. After composing herself, she bent over, picked up the phone, and stared at the message. She summoned her ex-husband Dan to come over and have a look. They turned to each other and managed a smile through their tears.
Over the years, Michael had gotten into the habit of calling or texting his parents whenever he arrived at a new destination after leaving a visit with them in New York. It was his way of letting them know he had arrived safely and he was OK. So Dan and Maureen chatted a little and recalled that they had not received word from Michael after he arrived at his duty station in Hawaii following his visit to New York about three months prior.
It seems that the message has just now arrived. His parents, devout Catholics, took this final message to mean that their son had arrived at his eternal home safe and sound.