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New naval destroyer named for slain Oahu-based SEAL

    Crew members from the USS Michael Murphy brought lei to the grave site of the ship’s Navy SEAL namesake during a memorial service Tuesday at Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, N.Y.

CALVERTON, N.Y. " The Navy’s newest warship will not be named for a former president, 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. The $1.1 billion warship’s home port will be in Hawaii. 

It is named for a Long Island native and Navy lieutenant based at Pearl Harbor 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, 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 an exposed clearing 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. Five Pearl Harbor-based SEALS, including Murphy, died in the battle.

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 Navy SEAL since his death, said his father, Daniel Murphy. The former lifeguard has a park named after him on Long Island; the post office in his hometown of Patchogue, N.Y., bears a monument to Murphy and the others who died; and Penn State University paid tribute to the 1988 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. Others have been named for notable leaders like former senator and astronaut John Glenn or naval titans like former Adm. Hyman Rickover. 

Murphy was leading a four-man team hunting a key Taliban leader in mountainous terrain near Asadabad when they were ambushed by about 50 combatants. A wounded Murphy was credited with risking his life to move into position to transmit a call for help.

He was shot in the back, causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing. After a two-hour gunfight, Murphy and two fellow SEALs were dead. About 35 Taliban were also killed. The fourth member of their team escaped and was protected by local villagers for several days before he was rescued.

Eight other Navy SEALs and eight members of the Army’s elite Night Stalkers were then killed when their helicopter was shot down.

Daniel Murphy spoke at a memorial service this week at Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island, where his son is buried. The service was attended by two busloads of crew members from the USS Michael Murphy who placed lei in honor of all those killed in the battle. 

"You know Michael grew up as an ordinary young man on Long Island and became a national hero," Dan Murphy said. "It’s emotionally trying but fulfilling at the same time."

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