Global War On Terror

September 11, 2001 was a spectacular late summer day that history would record as “9/11.” On that infamous date terrorists boarded four American passenger planes. Their plan was to turn them into weapons of mass destruction. All the planes crashed. The World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania will always be synonymous with that fateful day when thousands of innocent people lost their lives. The evil of 9/11 would alter America forever. In the midst of destruction and despair, the United States response would become known as the Global War on Terror or the War on Terror.

Speculation at the time was rife on who would launch such an attack and why, In 2004 Osama bin Laden, al Queda’s chief, took responsibility for these heinous acts and said sanctions against Iraq, the presence of U. S. troops in Saudi Arabia and American support of Israel was what caused him to hurl his group’s fury against America.

Oxford dictionaries define hero as: a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. Many heroes have emerged during the Global War on Terror. Shining examples are the images you see of Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a native son of Long Island, and Medal of Honor winner and Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, whose valor earned her both a Silver Star and place in history. Their bravery illustrates the challenges and demonstrates the realities members of the American military face as they battle enemies dedicated to eradicating the American way of life.

When 19-year-old Leigh Ann Hester, a retail store manager from Bowling Green, Kentucky, enlisted in the Army National Guard, little did she know what glory her future would hold. A varsity softball and basketball player in high school, she joined the Army in 2001 and was assigned to the Kentucky National Guard’s 617th Military Police Company.

Hester, the first woman to be awarded the Silver Star since World War II, is one of only 14 women in U. S. military history to receive this accolade, the third highest award for valor, and the first as a result of direct combat.

She was recognized in 2005 for skillfully leading her team of military police officers in a counterattack after about 50 insurgents ambushed a supply convoy they were guarding near Salman Pak. The citation that accompanies her award states her actions saved the lives of numerous convoy members. Six other soldiers with Hester’s unit were honored for defeating the ambush that left 27 insurgents dead, six wounded and one captured.

In an interview she said that she did not have time to be scared when the fight began. “Your training kicks in and the soldier kicks in. “It’s your life or theirs. You have got a job to do — protecting yourself and your fellow comrades.”

She was also quoted as saying that the award doesn’t have anything to do with being a female. “It’s about the duties I performed that day as a soldier.”

Hester has a permanent place of honor at the Women’s Memorial — the nation’s only memorial to honor America’s servicewomen from the Revolutionary War to the present. Her medal showcases the contributions of thousands of U. S. women soldiers who have fought in Iraq’s guerrilla war.

“This is the first time in history that a woman has been decorated for direct actions against an enemy force,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, President of the Women’s Memorial Foundation. “This is so significant to military women’s history — to American history.”

Michael Murphy’s family stood proudly during a White House ceremony in October 2007 as his father accepted the Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest military distinction for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Forces in the United States — posthumously on behalf of his son. Murphy joins an elite group of some 3,400 other service members who have been recognized with this prestigious tribute.

The first Navy recipient to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, Murphy was recognized for his extraordinary, selfless heroism and steadfast courage while leading a four-man Navy SEAL unit during a 2005 special reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.

Murphy was the officer-in-charge of the SEAL unit assigned to locate a high-level Taliban militia leader. Taliban sympathizers spotted the group and immediately released their position to comrades. The SEALs fought vigorously despite being at a tactical disadvantage and outnumbered more than four to one. Understanding the gravity of the situation and his responsibility to his men, Murphy, already wounded deliberately left cover and moved into the open where he took and returned fire while requesting help for his struggling team. Shot through the back while sending his message, Murphy managed to complete his conversation while continuing to fight. Eight more SEALs and eight Army “Nightstalker” special operations personnel also lost their lives when their helicopter was shot down before they could engage the enemy. The entire battle, the culmination of Operation Red Wing, resulted in the worse single day loss for Navy Special Warfare personnel since World War II.

As a high school National Honor Society student and varsity football athlete, Murphy made his mark in his Patchogue hometown. A graduate of Pennsylvania State University with degree in political science, he considered a career in law. The lure of the Navy prevailed and serving as a SEAL on missions in Jordan, Iraq, Qatar and Djibouti in East Africa would become his destiny

Although his death at 29 ended a bright future, his memory lives on where his story began. Murphy’s final resting place, Calverton National Cemetery, is close to where he called home.

Among the local public tributes that recognize his bravery and a life well spent are the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Post Office Building in Patchogue, Michael P. Murphy Beach at Lake Ronkonkoma and Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy North Patchogue-Medford Youth Athletic Club Ball field No. 3.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, his other commendations for heroic military service include the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon and Afghanistan Campaign Medal. Murphy’s parents started a foundation in his name with a mission not only to keep their son’s memory alive, but also to highlight the legacy of his fellow SEAL teammates.

Shortly after 9/ll President Bush addressed a joint session of congress stating that the United States ‘War on Terror’ begins with al-Queda, but it does not end there. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

During Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural address he stated “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In 2009 the Defense Department officially changed the name from “Global War on Terror” to “Overseas Contingency Operation.” Although the name of the operation may have changed, the threat still remains real.