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Old 07-20-2018, 08:38 AM
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Angry 'Only a coward could do this': Vandal smashes memorial to slain Navy SEAL and Medal o

'Only a coward could do this': Vandal smashes memorial to slain Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient
By: CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES - Published: July 20, 2018

Photo link of memorial:
The Suffolk County Police Department is investigating the recent act of vandalism that took place at Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Park in Lake Ronkonkoma.

A memorial to slain Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael P. Murphy was smashed to pieces at a New York lake, outraging locals and veterans.

A police report was filed Thursday with Suffolk County Police who said in a statement they were investigating “a recent act of vandalism” at Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Park in Lake Ronkonkoma, where Murphy once worked as a lifeguard.

A granite stone at the park was inscribed with the fallen SEAL’s image and part of his Medal of Honor citation. A police photo posted to Facebook showed the smooth circular stone shattered into more than a dozen pieces. A $2,500 reward is being offered through Crime Stoppers for information leading to the arrest of the culprit, the police said.

A matching reward was offered on Instagram by former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who served with Murphy and wrote about his heroism in his book “Lone Survivor.”

“Only a coward would do this,” Luttrell said of the vandalism in the social media post late Thursday that included the police photo of the damage.

More than 2,000 people had commented on Luttrell’s post by Friday morning, many expressing outrage or a desire to help fundraise for a new plaque.

Luttrell also donated money for a replacement, said Murphy’s father. Governor Andrew Cuomo has personally offered to pay for a replacement stone, which the original stonecutter has said will be made of a thicker slab that will make it nearly “unbreakable,” he said.

Murphy, 29 and a native of nearby Patchogue, N.Y., was killed in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in late June 2005, during Operation Red Wings, which Luttrell barely survived.

After 30 or more enemy fighters besieged their four-man SEAL team, wounding all four, Murphy ignored his own injuries and fought “in the face of almost certain death” to gain a better position to call for help, according to his Medal of Honor citation. He exposed himself to direct enemy fire while maintaining his position to communicate his location and a request for support, continuing to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded.

His sacrifice has been widely honored with memorials and tributes. Many veterans and others have taken to performing one of his favorite workouts, dubbed “Murph,” each Memorial Day.

His family operates a scholarship foundation in his name, and in 2011 his mother christened the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Michael Murphy on what would have been the SEAL’s 35th birthday.

The scholarship foundation was collecting donations for a replacement monument, board member Kim Niehaus said in an email to Stars and Stripes. Murphy “selflessly and willing gave his life … and does not deserve to be dishonored in death,” Niehaus said.

Donations had been pouring in, said Murphy’s father, Daniel Murphy, who said the community had built the monument near the site of his son’s old lifeguard post. The younger Murphy also swam the lake’s 1.5-mile length during his time training to be a SEAL.

Known as Serenity Plaza, the memorial has “some significance” to his son but doesn’t honor him alone, who he said was “a team player from day one.” The tributes are “never just about Michael,” he said.

The ship named in his honor, for example, “carries the spirit of all 19” Americans killed on operation Red Wings — the keel plate is inscribed with all their initials, and two rigid-hulled inflatable boats onboard were dubbed “Axe” and “Dietz” for Michael Murphy’s slain teammates, petty officers second class Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz.

At Lake Ronkonkoma, an 8-foot black granite wall is inscribed with the names of the 18 other Americans killed in the operation, including eight other SEALs and eight crew members from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment “Nightsalkers,” who were on a helicopter that was shot down while coming to aid Murphy’s team.

After damage to the centerpiece stone was discovered, dozens of locals gathered at the lakeside, including a group of veterans, News12 in the Bronx reported.

“There’s no words to express the outrage that veterans feel about desecrating a veteran’s monument,” said George Stondell, commander of AMVETS Department of New York.

Daniel Murphy said that Michael Murphy’s mother was crying early Friday when she called him to say that the damage felt to her “like they killed Michael all over again.” While the family is saddened by the damage, Daniel Murphy would be surprised if it was a personal attack on his son and was “probably kids … being stupid.”

Police said information about the damage can be reported to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. County officials were expected to provide an update on the investigation on Friday at 11:30 a.m. EDT.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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