[NB – I wrote this one before the relative flood of Medals from the war in Afghanistan started flowing, and back when the ones that had been awarded were all posthumous. -the Armorer]
While the criteria for the Medal has changed over time, I exalt no Medal holder over another as we should honor the opinion of their contemporaries, and not apply a filter informed from a remove of decades to over a century. But I understand that a lot of these Medals can seem, well, *musty* when most of the people alive today were not alive when most of them were earned. It truly is history in it’s driest sense for many people.
Today, we have a Medal earned and awarded during the lives of most of the people on the planet. In historical terms, it’s a current event.
And in recognition of that, we’ll open with it. The only Medal of Honor awarded thus far for actions in Operation Enduring Freedom – Navy Seal Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who earned his Medal 27-28 June, 2005, near Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan, as a part of Operation Redwing.
*MURPHY, MICHAEL P.
Rank and Organization: Lieutenant, United States Navy
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005. While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four-member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate, heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his Headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, courageous actions, and extraordinary devotion to duty, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Operation Redwing – Sometimes, “Leave no man behind” has costs that are hard to bear, yet warriors will willingly assume the risk for their brothers. When you lose that level of commitment amongst the warriors – I don’t care who you are, you’ve lost the battle.
OPERATION REDWING KIAs- On June 28, 2005, three of four SEALS on the ground (Murphy, Dietz, Axelson) were killed during combat operations in support of Operation Red Wing. ON the same say, a QRF of eight Navy SEALs and 8 Army Night Stalkers were also killed when the MH-47 helicopter that they were aboard was shot down by enemy fire in the vicinity of Asadabad, Afghanistan in Kumar Province.
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
1.Lt. (SEAL) Michael P. Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y.
2.Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew G. Axelson, 29, of Cupertino, Calif.
3.Machinist Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Eric S. Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nev.
4.Senior Chief Information Systems Technician (SEAL) Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, N.H.
5.Quartermaster 2nd Class (SEAL) James Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2, Virginia Beach, Va.
1.Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny P. Dietz, 25, of Littleton, Colo.
SEAL Team 10, Virginia Beach, Va.
1.Chief Fire Controlman (SEAL) Jacques J. Fontan, 36, of New Orleans, La.
2.Lt. Cmdr. (SEAL) Erik S. Kristensen, 33, of San Diego, Calif.
3.Electronics Technician 1st Class (SEAL) Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, of Corbett, Ore.
4.Lt. (SEAL) Michael M. McGreevy Jr., 30, of Portville, N.Y.
5.Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SEAL) Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, of Midway, W.Va.
Army Night Stalkers
3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Air Field, Ga.
1.Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Danville, Ohio.
2.Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, of Clarks Grove, Minn.
3.Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Fla.
4.Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Ind.
5.Maj. Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Conn.
6.Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Va.
7.Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Fla.
HQ Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.
1.Master Sgt. James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tenn.
Now back to the regular chronology.
Civil War – the Vicksburg Campaign.
HATHAWAY, EDWARD W.
Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy. Entered service at: Plymouth, Mass. Born: 9 July 1838, Plymouth, Mass. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Sciota prior to the battle Vicksburg, on 28 June 1862. Struck by a bullet which severed his left arm above the elbow, Hathaway displayed exceptional courage as his ship sustained numerous damaging hits from stem to stern while proceeding down the river to fight the battle of Vicksburg.
Interim Awards, 1871-1898. This is an award that today would be the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest award for bravery not involving conflict with an armed enemy.
Rank and organization: Coxswain, U.S. Navy. Born: 1852, Sweden. Accredited to: New York. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Powhatan, 28 June 1878. Acting courageously, Anderson rescued from drowning W. H. Moffatt, first class boy.
The Medal took a break until Vietnam, when a Medal was awarded that will make our resident ‘Rican swell with pride.
Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company B, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Place and date: Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, 28 June 1968. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Born: 20 December 1942, Salinas, Puerto Rico. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Santiago-Colon distinguished himself at the cost of his life while serving as a gunner in the mortar platoon of Company B. While serving as a perimeter sentry, Sp4c. Santiago-Colon heard distinct movement in the heavily wooded area to his front and flanks. Immediately he alerted his fellow sentries in the area to move to their foxholes and remain alert for any enemy probing forces. From the wooded area around his position heavy enemy automatic weapons and small-arms fire suddenly broke out, but extreme darkness rendered difficult the precise location and identification of the hostile force. Only the muzzle flashes from enemy weapons indicated their position. Sp4c. Santiago-Colon and the other members of his position immediately began to repel the attackers, utilizing hand grenades, antipersonnel mines and small-arms fire. Due to the heavy volume of enemy fire and exploding grenades around them, a North Vietnamese soldier was able to crawl, undetected, to their position. Suddenly, the enemy soldier lobbed a hand grenade into Sp4c. Santiago-Colon’s foxhole. Realizing that there was no time to throw the grenade out of his position, Sp4c. Santiago-Colon retrieved the grenade, tucked it in to his stomach and, turning away from his comrades, absorbed the full impact of the blast. His heroic self-sacrifice saved the lives of those who occupied the foxhole with him, and provided them with the inspiration to continue fighting until they had forced the enemy to retreat from the perimeter. By his gallantry at the cost of his life and in the highest traditions of the military service, Sp4c. Santiago-Colon has reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
*Indicates a posthumous award.