The Quiet Strength Of An American Hero

Michael Murphy was a born leader, whose quiet strength won the respect of others. So when his parents, Daniel and Maureen, accepted the Medal of Honor from President Bush today, it was public recognition of what they had always known, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports.

"Now, the nation knows ... what a good man, what a polite man, what a brave man," Michael's father, Daniel, said.

Born on Long Island, Murphy graduated with honors from Penn State. He passed up law school to take on one of the toughest jobs in the military. It was the terrorist attacks of September 11th that made his mission in Afghanistan not just important, but personal.

"It was, 'I'm going to the land where they recruited, plotted and attacked not only the United States but New York City,'" Daniel Murphy explained.

And so in late June 2005, Lt. Murphy snuck a four-man team high into the desolate mountains near the Pakistani border in search of a Taliban commander. They came upon some goat herders, but rather than kill them, decided to let them go, risking having their secret mission exposed.

It was a humane decision, but one they regretted when a large militia soon returned.

"They were looking for us," Marcus Luttrell, one of Murphy's men, explained.

How many were there?

"Four of us, and our best guesstimation, more than a hundred of them," he said.

As this Taliban video, purportedly of the firefight, shows, the battle was fierce. But Murphy crawled into the open so he could get a signal to radio for help, even though he knew he would draw fire. He was struck at least twice.

A Chinook helicopter flew to their aid. But it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 on board. After a two-hour battle, Matt Axelson, Danny Dietz, and Murphy were dead.

Wounded, Luttrell managed to survive for six days before he was rescued.

"I just rolled over and belly crawled into the side of the cliff, wedged myself into some rocks, covered myself," he said. "With mud and stuff on the legs, stopped the bleeding."

If Murphy hadn't gone out there, risked his life, Couric wouldn't have been talking to Luttrell.

Lt. Michael P. Murphy was laid to rest after a hero's funeral on a gloomy summer day.

That night, his mother received an e-mail that had been written by her son months earlier, but had never come through.

And it said, "Mom, I'm home safe and sound."

"That was the day he was buried I got that message that never came like three months before," Maureen Murphy said. "I feel like it was Mike saying, 'It's okay, Mom. I'm okay.'"

Today was the kind of event his fiancée, Heather Duggan, said Luttrell never would have wanted, but she wishes he were here to see for himself. He died five months before their wedding date.

"He wasn't doing it for any honors. This, for him? He would brush it off," Duggan said. "I think he would want to be remembered for what he believed morally."

"We had a great son. And while we lost him at this point, the world had a great American," Daniel Murphy said.

And the country has a great hero.