A United States Navy SEAL who died to save his team members from a fierce gun battle with Taliban fighters and was the first sailor since Vietnam to earn the Medal of Honor, is the inspiration behind the Murph Challenge – an annual physical fundraiser which pays tribute to the fallen hero.
The intense physical challenge is taken on every Memorial Day by the military community and celebrities such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who posted a photo of himself with his daughters after completing the challenge in less than 40 minutes.
Lieutenant Michael P Murphy, fondly nicknamed 'Murph', was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor — the highest recognition given by the US government for valour in combat — "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with naval special warfare task unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005".
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This ill-fated mission, codenamed Operation Red Wings, tasked Lt Murphy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson and Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell with locating Ahmad Shah, a high-level anti-coalition militia leader in the Hindu Kush mountain range, near Asadabad, Afghanistan.
This operation resulted in brutal and deadly fighting when the men came under overwhelming enemy fire, leaving three of the four-man Navy SEAL team dead.
The lone survivor of Op Red Wings, PO2 Luttrell, a retired Navy SEAL and Purple Heart and Navy Cross recipient, co-authored the New York Times bestseller, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, which was later turned into a Hollywood film starring Mark Wahlberg as PO2 Luttrell and Taylor Kitsch as Lt Murphy.
What is the Murph Challenge?
Held every Memorial Day – when the nation honours their military dead – the Murph Challenge is the official fundraiser of the Lt Michael P Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation, which was set up two years after the Navy SEAL's death by his parents Dan and Maureen and brother John.
Scholarly Lt Murphy would often say "education will set you free", so the foundation, which has raised in excess of $2m thanks to the Murph Challenge campaign, awards more than 27 scholarships every year, often in memory of other fallen service personnel.
The heroic Navy SEAL, who was also the recipient of other honours such as a Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon and the Joint Service Commendation Medal, among many others, relished completing a particular workout which is the inspiration behind the Murph Challenge.
The Murph Challenge is a physical, mental and, for many who take part, emotional test.
Originally named Body Armor, this CrossFit Hero workout was renamed to the Murph Challenge, after Lt Murphy.
The challenge begins and ends with a one-mile run and consists of 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 air squats.
Some participants carry additional weights in vests and backpacks to intensify the workout.
Successful challengers then submit their 'Murph' time to compare their achievement with other participants worldwide with the top five men and women recognised for their efforts.
Those who take part are encouraged to push past the pain and exhaustion, in the same way Lt Murphy did during his final moments.
Of his bravery on the day he was killed to help rescue his team, the US Department of Defense said: "Ignoring his own wounds, Murphy encouraged his men to stay strong and began calling for help to get them out of there.
"His calls weren't going through, though, likely because of the remote terrain, so Murphy fought his way toward open territory to find a better position to transmit a call.
"Despite taking on direct enemy fire, Murphy managed to get in touch with backup forces to give them their location and ask for immediate support.
"At one point during the call, he was shot in the back and dropped the transmitter.
"But he picked it back up, finished the call and fired back at the enemy.
"Despite severe wounds, he then made his way back to cover with the other men."
This bravery led to a MH-47 Chinook helicopter with eight more Navy SEALs and eight US Army special operators on board being sent to rescue the four men.
However, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter, causing it to crash, killing all 16 men on board.
Despite severe injuries, the brutal and fierce fighting continued for another two hours, but three of the men, including Lt Murphy, were killed.
Days later, US forces were able to rescue PO2 Luttrell and recover the bodies of the other three members of the Navy SEAL team killed in the battle, thanks to the call Lt Murphy risked and gave his life to make.
The Murph Challenge has become a military tradition
In 2022, Bell Gymnasium at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico hosted the Murph Challenge a day early.
Lori Baker, supervisory recreation assistant at Bell Gymnasium, said: "We then start our Memorial Day weekend, with an understanding of the importance and weight of this holiday.
"Paying tribute to Lt Murphy by completing his favourite workout ensures that we remember these people we have lost were fathers, husbands, sons, part of a community, people who loved to go to their gym.
"If you read about the heroic efforts Lt Murphy endured on 28 June 2005, you will not think twice about doing this workout.
"You will feel fortunate to be able to participate in this workout."
Matthew Lujan, a fitness specialist at Bell Gymnasium, refers to the Murph as a "hero challenge", saying: "Many people of all walks of life do the challenge every year on Memorial Day as a tribute workout to Murphy.
"The workout is what he would do every day, and we are doing it in honour of him."
Launched on 8 May 2011, the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy was named after Lt Murphy to honour his memory.