Bedford and Mt Kisco Gathers to Celebrate Medal of Honor Winner
Heroic Events are Subject of Mark Wahlberg Film
Universal Pictures, Poster
A look back an amazing 2008 story...
On June 28th, 2005, Navy Seal Michael Murphy and his outfit were tracking a high level Taliban operative in Afghanistan when their cover was blown. They were soon surrounded, and a massive firefight ensued. The seals had only chance of survival. The outfit needed someone to transmit a message back to base from an open location, and that person would be completely exposed to enemy fire. As team leader, Lt Murphy assumed responsibility, and unlike in the movies, heroism isn't always rewarded with waving flags and a valiant homecoming.
"They know that they may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice and we see, time and time again, that sacrifice is made routinely," said Phil Criste.
The selfless bravery, though, would become the subject of the 2013 film, Lone Survivor with Mark Wahlberg. Nonetheless, Criste is doing his part next month to help remember the dying heroics of this Long Island Medal of Honor Winner. So he will proudly be there when the Mt. Kisco Country Club holds a fundraising golf outing to benefit The Naval Special Forces Warfare Foundation. In addition, an informative discussion about the role of the Special Forces in the Global War on Terror will take place featuring Rear Admiral (Seal) Tom Richards.
Of course, the heroics of Lt. Murphy will certainly be up for discussion, and the bravery connected to the mission does not end there. But neither, unfortunately, does the tragedy.
After completing his transmission and before succumbing to his wounds, a second special forces team responded. Arriving by helicopter, an extremely dangerous day time rescue ensued and was piloted by Major Stephen Reich. All 16 members of the crew were killed as an enemy grenade entered the chopper before they could engage in the fight. Ultimately, Marcus Luttrell of the original force was the only survivor.
Criste's connection to the event dates back three years to first reading about Lt. Murphy and the 2005 mission. Sadly, he learned that the mission is recorded as the highest casualty figure in Seal history. A few years later, after his son entered West Point, Criste came across the story again - only this time learning the name of Major Reich.
The father now felt tremendous sympathy and a deeper connection since his son had joined the academy. "I just called up Reich's father one afternoon and had a very nice conversation, expressing my condolences,"recalled Criste.
Turning the clock forward, Criste received word that his friend and Naval Reserve officer Roger Froehlich was organizing an event to honor Michael Murphy. So the friendship struck up with Mr. Reich, the Connecticut resident saw the chance to connect the loose ends and bring both families together in celebration. "It's not going to be a funeral. It's going to be an event to honor and inform the public about the role of Special Operations in the Global War on Terror," Criste asserted.
Adding to the information will be the presence of former press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who Criste went to high school with. "I was able to enlarge the program a little bit," said Christe modestly of his role. On the other hand, he's anything but humble on behalf of Reich and Murphy.
Steven Reich gave up a baseball career to join the night stalkers, while Murphy exemplified a simple decency at the end that might not always come across from media coverage of military personnel. "On the phone, as he was dying, Murphy said 'thank you,'" Criste revelaed.
Even more compelling is how that same humanity imbued by military training put the original mission in jeopardy. Several goat herders came across their position, and the four Seals voted to let them go. In all likelihood, these civilians alerted the Taliban and compromised the situation. "They let them go at great peril to themselves. What does that speak to," Criste implored.
Nonetheless, Criste sees the event as a chance to put the politics aside and add some insight to the various points of view we all hold. "It's a unique opportunity to get these people together, hear their stories and ask questions, he concluded.
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