BATH – As Maureen Murphy got ready to swing a bottle of champagne into the bow of the Michael Murphy, named for her son, the ship’s sponsor thought one thing.

“I wanted to do a good job. I just wanted to do it right,” she said after Saturday’s christening ceremony.

It was an important moment to honor her son, the late Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy, on what would have been his 35th birthday.

It took two swings before the bottle erupted in a spray of fizz, concluding the christening of the 34th Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer built at Bath Iron Works.

BIW President Jeff Geiger later presented Maureen Murphy with the bottle in a commemorative case. He said the dent she made in the vessel from smashing the bottle against the bow was enough to make her son proud.

Fabrication of the warship began in September 2007, a month before Murphy accepted the highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for her son. The medal and the ship bearing his name are just two ways the country is honoring the Navy SEAL’s valiant services.

Rather than following in his father’s footsteps and attending law school after graduating from Penn State University, Michael Murphy joined the Navy’s Officer Candidate School in 2000. Four months later, he started SEAL training.

By 2002, he was a member of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1, based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and was deployed on various special operations.

Three years later, Murphy found himself in Afghanistan as assistant officer in charge of Alpha Platoon.

His skills as a SEAL were put to the test June 28, 2005, in Afghanistan’s rugged Hindu Kush mountains. He and three other SEALs engaged in combat with Taliban guerrillas and were heavily outnumbered.

Murphy died in the firefight that day, along with two fellow SEALs, Petty Officers Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson, and 16 U.S. soldiers who came to their rescue.

Another SEAL, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, survived and has since documented the events in his book “Lone Survivor,” in which Murphy plays a prominent role.

In the book, Luttrell describes Murphy as “the best officer I ever knew, an iron-souled warrior of colossal and almost unbelievable courage in the face of the enemy.”

As Murphy’s mother christened the 509.5-foot vessel Saturday, a strong breeze off the Kennebec River blew red, white and blew confetti over the crowd of thousands who sat in the shadows of the Michael Murphy.

Maureen Murphy, who wears a cuff bracelet engraved with her son’s name, said she hopes the ship’s crew of 279 will honor her son and embody his patient, loyal and humble qualities.

Like her son, Murphy is also humble. She said it was nice to see how many people have not forgotten about his ultimate sacrifice.

“But they’re not only here for Michael. I think they are here for all the men who have given their lives,” she said.

She was also amazed by all the speeches made during the day’s ceremony.

Gov. Paul LePage, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, and Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, were among the dignitaries who spoke.

Having read Luttrell’s book, LePage said the events of that day are “truly an inspirational story I will not forget.”

“He did not give up, not on his team,” LePage said. “Instead, he gave it his all. He made the ultimate sacrifice.”

The ship, which his family considers a floating monument to Michael Murphy and the others who died that day, is expected to be in its home port of Pearl Harbor by June 2012.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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