A Night Of Hurt Is Worth It

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Miles For Murph:  Carle Place’s Freddy Rodriguez runs in memory of Navy SEAL

 

Freddy Rodriguez of Carle Place (front row, third from left) and his running companions ran 50 miles in honor of a Long Island Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo courtesy of Freddy Rodriguez)

With apologies to the Coen brothers, “The Murph abides”—as in endures.

Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, a Patchogue resident and SEAL, was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005. His actions during a firefight against the Taliban earned him the Medal of Honor, the highest award bestowed by the United States.

The story of how Murphy exposed himself to enemy fire in order to call for aid struck a chord with Freddy Rodriguez of Carle Place. The Town of North Hempstead employee read whatever he could about Murphy and the two other SEAL members who were killed while on reconnaissance for Operation Red Wings—a mission to capture a Taliban leader.

The 2006 graduate of Carle Place High School even communicated with family members of the fallen warriors.

Freddy Rodriguez (left) and Shaun Provost stand in front of the Lt. Michael Murphy Memorial set up at Engine 53/Ladder 43 firehouse in Spanish Harlem, where the 50-mile run begins. (Photo courtesy of Freddy Rodriguez)

“I wanted to do something to honor Murph since he is a personal hero of mine, for what he did both before and while he was a Navy SEAL,” Rodriguez told an interviewer. “He did what was right even when it wasn’t a popular opinion. But I wanted it to be something that lived up to the men from his mission.”

Rodriguez learned about a 4-mile run around Lake Ronkonkoma in honor of Murphy that also served as a fundraiser. He had also knew that, in remembrance of 9-11, Murphy wore a patch for FDNY Engine 53/Ladder 43 in Spanish Harlem. Murphy reportedly served as a lifeguard—and honed his SEAL training—in Lake Ronkonkoma.

With this inspiration, Rodriguez started “50 Miles For Murph-Operation Red Wings,” in 2013. The challenging race begins at the fire station in Spanish Harlem and ends on the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma.

Rodriguez raced alone the inaugural year, but in this, the seventh annual race, 18 other runners went the distance. They started at 7 p.m. on the summer solstice. This year, when participants reached Ronkonkoma, they had just 30 minutes of rest before starting the memorial run.

Navy file photo of SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, from Patchogue. Murphy was killed by enemy forces during a reconnaissance mission, Operation Red Wing, June 28, 2005, while leading a four-man team tasked with finding a key Taliban leader in the mountainous terrain near Asadabad, Afghanistan. The team came under fire from a much larger enemy force with superior tactical position. Murphy knowingly left his position of cover to get a clear signal in order to communicate with his headquarters and was mortally wounded while exposing himself to enemy fire. While being shot and shot at, Murphy provided his units location and requested immediate support for his element. He returned to his cover position to continue the fight until finally succumbing to his wounds.

The idea came to Rodriguez when he and a friend hiked 14 miles to a polar plunge in Long Beach, carrying backpacks loaded with 25 pounds of weights. The honks from passing vehicles and other shows of support made him realize that his hike could have raised funds.

Rodriguez said he had lined up some sponsors this year, and the run raised $14,000—nearly five times the amount in 2018—for the Lt. Michael Murphy Scholarship Foundation, the Lone Survivor Foundation, Navy SEAL Foundation and Special Operation Warriors Foundation.

In a statement before the run, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said, “Freddy’s dedication to his training and to this run in honor of Lt. Murphy is truly inspiring. As always, all of us in the Town of North Hempstead who work with him wish him a safe and successful journey.”

“I am truly thankful to all those who join me for the journey overnight, as well as those who help shape the run into the success it has been,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “It’s all a team effort and it’s to make sure no one ever forgets the ultimate sacrifice Murph and his men made.”

Once the runners crossed into Queens, they traveled via Astoria Boulevard, Northern Boulevard, Little Neck Parkway, the LIE Service Road, New Hyde Park Road, Jericho Turnpike and Veterans Memorial Highway.

At around 11:30 p.m., they reached the New Hyde Park firehouse and were greeted by lights and sirens, a crowd of cheering supporters and a huge American flag hanging from two ladder trucks.

Rodriguez and his running companions were escorted at various points by the NYPD, Floral Park FD, Mineola FD, Garden City Park FD and both the Nassau and Suffolk PDs.

Rodriguez said that the Floral Park FD company van accompanied his group from start to finish, while a Mineola fire truck followed the runners from New Hyde Park (mile 18) to mile 28.

At about 1 a.m. they passed the halfway mark—near the 7-11 on Brush Hollow Road and Jericho Turnpike in Westbury.

“Running 50 miles I would say is more mentally tough,” Rodriguez told The Westbury Times. “It’s hard physically, but the sleep deprivation, middle of the night running and knowing the hills around mile 34 are coming, makes you want to stop. I have to push that out of my head, remember why I am running and just make the body keep moving forward. I expect the pain to be there but just have to push through it.”

Having so many companions helped, he observed, noting, “It’s a long way, but people were joking, singing, even dancing. It keeps you going and keeps you moving.”

Rodriguez, who works at the Yes We Can Community Center in New Cassel,  said he is in peak physical condition now, and is coming off a year in which he set personal records. He is looking forward to competing in triathlons; he already has half-marathons and one marathon to his credit.

He has even done what has been named “The Murph,” reportedly Murphy’s favorite workout. Before it was renamed in the lieutenant’s honor, it was called “Body Armor” and consists of a mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and finishes with a second mile run.

“I have been doing ‘The Murph’ since 2012 and I had my fastest time ever this year, with the weighted vest, at 34 minutes and 35 seconds,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a great workout and I try to do it multiple times a year.”

Regarding his annual race, Rodriguez reflected, “50 miles is a long way to go and it’s one night of hurt—but it pales in comparison to what our servicemembers go through.”

He added, “We had an overwhelmingly positive response.”

Runners:

Freddy Rodriguez, Carle Place
Shaun Provost, Raleigh, NC
Nelson Reyes, Central Islip
Paul Milazzo, Commack
Ali Caruano, Roxbury, NJ
Alanna Hollborn, Islip Terrace
Robyn Kenul, Nesconset
Brandon Ferraro, Patchogue
Anderson Minaya, Bronx
Richard Elliott, Bright Waters
Ron Hurtado, Port Jefferson
Billy Richards, Amityville
Gregory Waxman, Malverne
Johnathan Henderson, Suffolk County
Kelly Rini, Bay Shore
Jorge Barrera, Suffolk County
Mayra Muy, Suffolk County
Michael Esposito, Suffolk County
Eva Marie, Suffolk County

Support Team:

Paul Dobiecki, Dix Hills
Michele Dobiecki, Dix Hills
Corey Schwartz, Nesconset
Eric O’Conner, Floral Park
Dan Natale, Mineola

Sponsors:

Island Federal
Airborne Tri Team
Live Unbreakable
Performax Physical Therapy & Wellness
5.11 Tactical
Smithtown Toyota
ISC Coverage
Hollborn Electric Inc.

Medal of Honor Citation

A photo of U.S. Navy Seal Michael Murphy in Afghanistan. Since his death, Murphy has had a number of places named after him, including the Navy’s last Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and the post office in Patchgogue. (U.S. Navy via Wikipedia)

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and 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.
While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate, heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

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