MELISSA BLOCK, host:
President Bush awarded the Medal of Honor today to Lieutenant Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL who died in a firefight in Afghanistan.
It was the first time the nation's highest military decoration has been awarded for combat in that country. Murphy was born and raised on Long Island, and entered the Navy after he graduated from Penn State University.
He led a team into the rugged mountains of Afghanistan in 2005 in search of terrorist leaders. Mr. Bush presented the medal to Murphy's parents in the East Room of the White House.
Here's NPR's David Greene.
Unidentified Man: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.
DAVID GREENE: As President Bush began the ceremony in the East Room, he spoke first of the medal itself.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: It recognizes gallantry that goes above and beyond the call of duty in the face of an enemy attack. Tradition of awarding this honor began during the Civil War, and many of those who have received the medal have given their lives in the action that earned it. Today, we add Lieutenant Michael Murphy's name to the list of recipients who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
GREENE: The President appeared with Lieutenant Murphy's parents. His father, Daniel Murphy, was awarded a Purple Heart after serving in Vietnam. He looked to be holding back tears during the ceremony for his son. President Bush explained that Navy SEALs, S-E-A-L-S, get their name because they know how to operate by sea, air and land. And Mr. Bush said when Michael Murphy was growing up on Long Island, it was like he'd been born for the job.
Pres. BUSH: When he was just 18 months old, he darted across a neighbor's yard and dove into the swimming pool. By the time his frantic parents reached him, Michael has swam the other side with a big smile on his face.
GREENE: Michael Murphy wore a New York City firehouse patch on his uniform to honor 9/11 victims. And he found his own, tough fight in June 2005. The way President Bush recounts the story, he was on a reconnaissance mission with three other SEALs. They were overwhelmed by Taliban fighters they tried to fight back.
Pres. BUSH: But as the enemy closed in, Michael recognized that the survival of his men depending on calling back to the base for reinforcements. With complete disregard for his own life, he moved into a clearing where his phone would get reception. He made the call, and Michael then fell until heavy fire. Yet, his grace and upbringing never deserted him. Though severely wounded, he said thank you before hanging up and returned to the fight before losing his life.
GREENE: It was not the only life lost that day. Two of the other SEALs were killed and the helicopter that responded to rescue Murphy's team was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 onboard. Many of the details come from the lone-surviving SEAL on that mission, Marcus Luttrell, who attended the ceremony.
Luttrell has written a book about what took place on that Afghan mountainside. Mr. Bush called the book riveting. After the ceremony, Murphy's father, Daniel, said that in a private moment, he gave the President a golden dog tag with his son's name and photo on it.
Mr. DANIEL MURPHY (Lieutenant Michael Murphy's Father): What we were most touched by is that the president immediately put that on underneath his shirt. And when he gave the presentation of the Medal of Honor, he wore that against his chest, and after the ceremony said I was inspired by having Michael next to my chest.
GREENE: Within the same hour as the award ceremony today, the president also announced that he was asking Congress for an additional $46 billion to continue paying for operations this year in Iraq and Afghanistan.
David Greene, NPR News, the White House.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.