A handmade sign that read “Michael Murphy is my hero” with the words “Warrior, humanitarian, and patriot” at the bottom sat at one of Penn State’s newest additions.
Over 200 people filled Schwab Auditorium Friday evening to commemorate the 2011 Senior Class Gift, the Lt. Michael P. Murphy/Penn State Veterans Plaza.
The plaza, located next to Old Main, is dedicated to Murphy, a Penn State alumnus who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in Afghanistan.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson spoke at the commemoration and in his opening remarks said, “Words do not adequately convey the magnitude of this loss,” regarding Murphy.
Erickson continued by thanking all that made the plaza possible and called it “a fitting tribute to all veterans.”
Murphy died in 2005 during a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan. He was killed under enemy fire while trying to help his team of four Navy SEALS after an attack by Taliban fighters.
Murphy’s father Dan spoke about his son at the event. He explained that Michael was fond of the story of King Leonidas, who in the fictionalized tale of the Battle of Thermopylae, lead 300 Spartan men to defend their empire against the Persians.
The Plaza displays the Greek phrase “With it or on it,” referring to a soldier’s shield. According to the Veterans Plaza program, a Spartan warrior was never without his shield. He either brought it home with him after battle, or he was carried home upon it if he died in battle. Dan Murphy said that he couldn’t think of a better way to honor Penn State veterans and his son than this memorial.
Kacie Latchford (senior-psychology), a member of the Army ROTC, was touched by the event. She explained that hearing Murphy’s story was inspiring.
“He was just like one of us,” she said, explaining how his name is well known in he military world after having a Destroyer named in his honor. According to Dan Murphy, there are currently two people serving on the USS Murphy from the university.
Penn State has the largest ROTC program at a non-military college.