Every year on Memorial Day weekend, CrossFitters in affiliates across the world perform the Hero workout, ‘Murph’. It is a workout that has become synonymous with CrossFit, not just for its brutal toughness, but for what it represents. ‘Murph’ is not simply another workout we do in a class to increase our fitness before moving on to whatever else we have going on in the day. It is a workout designed to honor and remember the men and women of the armed forces that have lost their lives in defense of our freedom. And as is the case with every Hero workout, it has a story of courage and sacrifice behind it.
‘Murph’ is named after Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005. He was 29-years-old. After graduating from Penn State University in 1998, Murphy rejected offers to attend law school and instead accepted a commission in the United States Navy and became a SEAL in July 2002.
In early 2005 Murphy was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE as officer in charge of Alpha Platoon and deployed to Afghanistan. In June of that year, Murphy was leading a four-man reconnaissance team in Kunar province as part of a counter-insurgent mission (the other men in Murphy’s team were Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell). During the mission the team encountered a group of local goat herders.
A discussion was held among the four SEALs regarding the rules of engagement and what they should do with the herders, who were being held at gunpoint. Eventually the men decided to release them, but not soon after the SEALs were surrounded and ambushed by an overwhelming Taliban force. Murphy, who was trying to reach HQ via satellite phone, willingly exposed himself to enemy fire by stepping into a clearing where he might get a signal to make the call. Murphy was shot in the back, but still managed to calmly complete the call for reinforcements and return to his position to continue the fight with his men. HQ sent an MH-47 Chinook helicopter to rescue the team, but while attempting to set down in rugged terrain, the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 men on board.
Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson were all killed in action. Luttrell was the only survivor and was eventually rescued after several days of wandering the mountain and being protected by the people of an Afghan village.
These HERO workouts are symbolic gestures of respect for all the fallen soldiers and service men and women who defend our freedom. CrossFit affiliates around the world, regardless of ethnicity or nation, honor their courage by pushing themselves to the limit in these (intentionally) brutal workouts. It is a way to remember these men and women—to ensure that they are never forgotten.
Every Memorial Day weekend, we remember Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy.