In early 2005 Murphy was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE as officer in charge of Alpha Platoon and deployed to Afghanistan. In June of that year, Murphy was leading a four-man reconnaissance team in Kunar province as part of a counter-insurgent mission (the other men in Murphy’s team were Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell). During the mission the team encountered a group of local goat herders.
A discussion was held among the four SEALs regarding the rules of engagement and what they should do with the herders, who were being held at gunpoint. Eventually the men decided to release them, but not soon after the SEALs were surrounded and ambushed by an overwhelming Taliban force. Murphy, who was trying to reach HQ via satellite phone, willingly exposed himself to enemy fire by stepping into a clearing where he might get a signal to make the call. Murphy was shot in the back, but still managed to calmly complete the call for reinforcements and return to his position to continue the fight with his men. HQ sent an MH-47 Chinook helicopter to rescue the team, but while attempting to set down in rugged terrain, the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 men on board.
Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson were all killed in action. Luttrell was the only survivor and was eventually rescued after several days of wandering the mountain and being protected by the people of an Afghan village.
The actions and story of the SEALs on June 28th, 2005 are portrayed in the film ‘Lone Survivor’
Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courage and sacrifice that day. All three of his men were awarded the Navy’s second-highest honor, the Navy Cross, for their actions. The men who were killed in the rescue attempt were also honored. These included Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor and Lt. Michael McGreevy, who were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars for Valor and Purple Hearts. CrossFit HQ’s Russell Berger, who served in the 1st Ranger Battalion, writes of these men: “These men were fathers, husbands and sons. They were brothers to their fellow SEALs. They were also CrossFitters. In their actions, these men embodied the values and spirit of true heroes, and to immortalize their courage, bravery and self-sacrifice, the CrossFit Hero workouts were created.”