Cadets seek to honor Navy SEAL Michael Murphy

An undated photo of Navy Seal Michael Murphy

An undated photo of Navy Seal Michael Murphy in Afghanistan. (Credit: Website of Matt Axelson)

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The father of an American hero testified before a committee of Suffolk County lawmakers last week and made waves.

Daniel Murphy's late son, Lt. Michael Murphy of Patchogue, a Navy SEAL, received the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan. His story was chronicled in the best-selling book "Seal of Honor" and in the movie "Lone Survivor."

Murphy died in 2005 during a reconnaissance mission when his four-man team was attacked by more than 30 Taliban fighters. Murphy was killed when he exposed himself to enemy fire while trying to radio for help.

Daniel Murphy voiced "moral support" for a plan by a group of youngsters, aged 11 to 17, who are part of a Navy Sea Cadet Division that adopted his son's name. The cadets want to create a training center and to give Michael Murphy and his fellow SEALs an extensive display at Suffolk's Maritime Museum at West Sayville County Park.

Cadet officials told lawmakers they want to double the size of an existing storage building that houses some of the museum's historic vessels, to provide cadets space to train and drill, and create an exhibit area to honor the history of the SEALs -- from their founding in 1962 to their current role battling terrorism. Plans include a solar-powered lighthouse, dubbed "Murph's Light," that would serve as a beacon for boats on Great South Bay.

"Michael's favorite term . . . that he would always tell his men, was . . . 'improvise, adapt and overcome,' " said the elder Murphy. "It's real easy to say no -- you don't need an excuse -- it's always difficult to say yes and make something happen."

Murphy said the cadets need more space, and that leaders have had to turn away more than 90 youngsters who have wanted to join the year-old unit. Already, three former cadets have advanced to service academies -- the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., the Coast Guard academy in New London, Conn. and to the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point.

Cadet officials say the group is seeking no county funds -- just permission to move ahead with their proposal.

"We have an army of contractors and tradespeople who have stepped up. It will not cost the county a dime," said Gary Vertichio, the unit's commanding officer. "But we're hoping to leave here with your support. We cannot move forward with fundraising without the first step."

"It's just a fabulous vision and plan," said Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Stony Brook), who called the idea of a Navy SEAL exhibit "extraordinary." Backers say the nearest SEAL exhibit is in Florida.

Legis. William Lindsay III (D-Oakdale) said he will file legislation soon to give the group a long-term lease so they can begin fundraising. Lindsay said the proposed renovations will spruce up a building that now is an eyesore to local neighbors -- and make it better fit the museum complex, which chronicles a century of boating history on the bay.

"When it comes time to vote, remember Michael's words -- 'improvise, adapt and overcome' -- find a reason to make something happen," said Daniel Murphy, a former assistant Suffolk County district attorney. The project "will not only enhance Michael's legacy, but yours," he said.