A museum opened Tuesday in West Sayville that chronicles the Navy SEALs and takes its name from Patchogue native Lt. Michael Murphy, a member of the elite covert unit who died during an ill-fated mission in Afghanistan.
About 1,000 people attended opening ceremonies, including a member of the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden, and also, the lone survivor of the mission — 17 years ago Tuesday — where Murphy lost his life.
Former President George W. Bush, in a videotaped message, hailed the opening of the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Navy SEAL Museum as a monument to those Americans who have carried out some of the nation’s most daring and dangerous covert operations.
“From their earliest days in World War II, Navy special warfare forces have occupied a special place in American military history,” Bush told the crowd. “This honored site in West Sayville will pay tribute to the enduring accomplishments of all of them, including Michael Murphy.”
The museum is billed as only the second in the nation dedicated to telling the SEAL story, with the other in Ft. Pierce, Florida. The West Sayville museum was years in the making, delayed in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Daniel Murphy, Michael’s father.
It honors much more than just his son, Murphy said.
“This is really about his teammates," he said. "Michael was just one of 2,000.”
From the underwater demolition teams of World War II, to elite units operating around the globe in 2022, the museum traces the history of the SEALs, which stands for Navy, Sea, Air and Land.
SEAL weapons, frogmen outfits, a life raft and a battery-run stealth submarine are on display, as are scale models of the battlefield where Murphy died, and the compound where members of SEAL Team 6 killed bin Laden in 2011.
Organizers said they envision school groups coming to learn about the SEALs, as well as the general public interested in the dramatic actions and bravery of the famed Navy special warfare unit.
Murphy was killed on June 28, 2005, at age 29 on a covert mission to find a Taliban leader in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.
Two other SEALs were killed on the ground that day during Operation Red Wings. Eight more SEALs and eight Army "Night Stalker" special forces personnel who tried to rescue them were also killed when their helicopter was shot down. The episode at the time was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare Command since World War II.
Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the U.S. government's highest and most prestigious military decoration.
The only SEAL who survived the mission, Murphy’s teammate Marcus Luttrell, flew in from his native Texas to attend the inauguration. His character is featured in the 2013 movie “Lone Survivor.”
Luttrell said he was filled with a “multitude of emotions” Tuesday about that fateful day 17 years ago, but the museum is “a shining example of what all we’ve learned.”
Rob O’Neill, a member of SEAL Team 6 that killed bin Laden in 2011, also attended the ceremony.
The museum is “awesome," O'Neill said. "I love it.”
He stood over the model of the compound where bin Laden was killed, regaling visitors with details of the famous raid.
Daniel Murphy said the actual cost of the museum was $5 million, but organizers paid only $2 million because of labor and materials donated by Long Island businesses who wanted to honor the SEALs. It is located next to the West Sayville Golf Course and the Long Island Maritime Museum.
“While this building carries Michael’s name, it contains … the spirits, stories, history, legacy, sacrifices of all his colleagues,” Murphy said.