Lake Ronkonkoma, NY – The Serenity Plaza centerpiece memorial stone honoring fallen Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy and his sacrifice has been shattered by vandals, police said on Thursday.
The stone and surrounding brick and black granite memorial of Serenity Plaza sits on the shore of Lake Ronkonkoma, where Lt. Murphy once worked as a lifeguard and manager, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The circular slab featured an etching of the uniformed lieutenant, who was part of a four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines in the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, according to the Navy’s Medal of Honor website.
The team was scouting Ahmad Shah, the terrorist leader of a guerilla group aligned with the Taliban, when they were spotted by locals.
An estimated 50 enemy combatants attacked the SEALs from three sides, pushing the team further into a deep ravine.
Approximately 45 minutes into the gun battle, the team was pinned down and each member was severely wounded.
“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,” the Medal of Honor site read. “Murphy, intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.”
As the enemy continued to fire at him, 29-year-old Lt. Murphy “calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team,” the military page recounted.
He momentarily dropped the transmitter when a bullet struck him in the back, but Lt. Murphy picked it back up, completed his transmission and returned to cover to continue fighting alongside his men until his death.
“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, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of [Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus] Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle,” the Navy’s Medal of Honor website read.
For his heroic actions, Lt. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the Sachem Patch reported.
The plaza was dedicated as part of the Navy (SEAL) Lt. Michael Murphy Memorial Park on May 7, 2008, according to the Lake Ronkonkoma Civic Organization.
Suffolk County Police have opened an investigation into who shattered the lieutenant’s memorial stone into thirteen pieces, but have made no arrests, the Sachem Patch reported.
On Thursday the fallen hero’s family issued a statement regarding the vandalism, SEAL of Honor said in a Facebook post.
“The family is heartbroken by the damage to this beautiful monument to our son and the men of Operation Red Wings,” the statement read. “There were so many from the community who volunteered their labor, time and money to build Serenity Plaza.”
“It’s unfortunate that some devalue the service and sacrifice of our Veterans and Fallen Heroes by expressing their outrage or drunken fun through damage to a monument which honors us all as Americans through our Fallen Servicemen and Women,” the family’s statement continued. “What a disgrace.”
Lt. Murphy’s family has offered a cash reward for information leading to the identification of the vandals, and have begun collecting donations to help replace the destroyed monument, according to the post.