I woke up Friday morning at 5 a.m. to go to the gym, but as I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling fan, I couldn't help but remember a time in my life when my freedoms were severely restricted.
To all the veterans reading this, you will understand and probably laugh at me for being a “boot” but I remember my time in service and more specifically boot camp. A place where recruits are treated less than dirt and shown no love.
A place where I learned that freedom was most definitely a privilege. For Pete’s sake I couldn't even use the bathroom without yelling for permission!
I learned a lot about freedom through the military and thought I should share my version on what it means to have freedom and how we have sustained it throughout the years.
The best way to explain freedom is through the sacrifice of others. So I have decided to tell the true story of one American who exemplified true heroism in the face of certain death.
Lt. Michael P. Murphy, Medal of Honor recipient and Navy Seal Officer killed in action June 28, 2005.
Growing up, Lt. Murphy was often referred to by his friends as the “protector,” because that's who he was. Murphy was a caregiver and often looked out for those who could not defend themselves.
He graduated high school in 1994 and went on to Penn State University and then graduated in 1998 with a double major degree in political science and psychology.
He was accepted to several law schools after graduation but he had different plans. In Sept. 2000 Murphy joined the U.S. Navy and left for Officer Candidate School. In January 2001 Lt. Murphy began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and later graduated in November 2001.
By that time the World Trade Towers attacked by the Taliban and Murphy deployed to Qatar in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After several years and multiple deployments Murphy found himself being deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in early 2005.
While on deployment, Murphy was tasked out to Operation Red Wings, a counter-insurgent mission in the Kunar Province, Afghanistan, alongside three other Navy SEALs.
They were on a mission to kill or capture a top Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah, who commanded a group of insurgents known as the “Mountain Tigers” west of Asadabad.
The team was dropped off by helicopter in a remote, mountainous area east of Asadabad in Kunar Province, near the Pakistan border.
After an initially successful infiltration, local goat herders stumbled upon the SEALs' hiding place. Unable to verify any hostile intent from the herders, the team cut them loose.
Hostile locals, possibly the goat herders they let pass, alerted nearby Taliban forces, who then surrounded and attacked the small group.
Trying to reach safety, the four men, now each wounded, began bounding down the mountain's steep sides, making leaps of 20 to 30 feet. Approximately 45 minutes into the fight and pinned down by overwhelming forces, Dietz, the communications petty officer, sought open air to place a distress call back to the base. But before he could, he was shot in the hand, the blast shattering his thumb.
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 intent on making contact with headquarters, but realized this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting. Unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life, he moved into the open where he could gain a better position to transmit a call and get help for his men.
Murphy left his cover position and went to a clearing away from the mountains, exposing himself to a hail of gunfire in order to get a clear signal to contact headquarters, relaying the dire situation and requesting immediate support for his team.
Running through the mountain terrain, Murphy was shot and wounded multiple times but kept pushing for his comrades.
He dropped the satellite phone after being shot repeatedly but picked the phone back up and finished the call.
He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team.
While being shot, he signed off saying "Thank You" then continued to send rounds down range and eliminate the enemy. He kept fighting from his exposed position, and made his way back to his teammates where he eventually bled out and died from his wounds.
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 that carried through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Axelson and Dietz had been killed. An estimated 40 Taliban were also dead.
The fourth SEAL, Luttrell, was blasted over a ridge by a rocket propelled grenade and knocked unconscious. Regaining consciousness some time later, Luttrell managed to escape, badly injured, and slowly crawl away down the side of a cliff. Dehydrated with a bullet wound to one leg, shrapnel embedded in both legs and three cracked vertebrae the situation for Luttrell was grim. Rescue helicopters were sent in, but he was too weak and injured to make contact. Traveling seven miles on foot, he evaded the enemy for nearly a day. Thankfully, local nationals came to his aid, carrying him to a nearby village where they kept him for three days.
U.S. forces launched a massive operation that rescued him from enemy territory on July 2.
By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit.
This act ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.
Men like Murphy, Dietz, Axelson and Luttrell are often forgotten about in today's day and age. It is our duty to remember their names.
They are but a handful of men that have given their lives in the effort to preserve our nation's core values of freedom.
As American people it is our responsibility to honor the names of all the valiant men and women who have fought and served our great nation.
Memorial Day is far more than family cook outs and drinking beer. Take the time to honor the dead. Read a passage or two about a fallen service member and give their name the respect it deserves.
I know my freedom to wake up early in the morning was given to me by all the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives in hopes for the preservation of freedom.
So thank you to all who have served. As a Marine myself, I would gladly die defending the privilege of freedom. Semper Fidelis.
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