Read an excerpt from Luke's forthcoming memoir: Blasted by Adversity: The Making of a Wounded Warrior
It was about one o’clock in the morning on Tuesday, April 25, 2006, and Army Staff Sergeant Luke Murphy was 23 hours into his latest mission. He’d been leading a 12-man team on reconnaissance in Sadr City, Baghdad followed by a “presence” patrol. As they were leaving the city, the bumper of the second Humvee, where Luke was the front right passenger, triggered an infrared laser attached to a roadside bomb. The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was among the deadlier type – an Explosively Formed Penetrator known for its power to pierce almost any type of armored vehicle. The explosion’s force instantly removed Luke’s right leg and blew his left leg in half. Still conscious, he gave orders for the driver to crash into a wall, because he knew the vehicle was about to explode. After the impact, Luke hoisted his body out of the burning vehicle and dragged himself to safety. The driver and other passengers, also injured, escaped with their lives as well. Within 18 minutes, Luke’s fellow soldiers had him back on base. He stayed conscious for the next 24 hours, as they pumped his body full of blood and transferred him via military aircraft to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Despite the many obstacles his rehabilitation has required, Luke considers the title he earned as a kid – “Lucky Luke” – still very much intact. Defending freedom with your very life is in his blood going back to the Civil War; an uncle fought with Patton and his father was a Marine. Their family motto: Murphys always come home.
At 17, Luke was deemed too young to join the Army, so his father signed his consent. The younger Murphy’s natural drive and ability earned him a place with the elite 101st Airborne Division, where he advanced quickly becoming one of the youngest staff sergeants in his battalion. Being assigned to one of the most decorated divisions in the Army also carries the burden of being in the worst combat areas. He and his men were sent straight to the front.
In 2003, Luke led a fire team on the invasion of Iraq, which contributed to the Division’s success of liberating three key cities and establishing a free and democratic Iraq. He earned several Army awards and commendations for exemplary service during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Luke was redeployed to Iraq in 2005, even though he had less than a month left on his contract. It was seven months into his second tour when he was catastrophically wounded in Baghdad. He refers to it as “a bad day on the job.”
Sent for continued recovery and rehabilitation at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, DC, Luke Murphy’s infectious personality entertained visiting celebrities from Donald Rumsfeld and the President of the United States to Cher. He appeared on CNN, NPR and the BBC, collecting numerous commendations along the way, including the coveted Purple Heart. While still healing, in late 2007, Luke joined other wounded soldiers on the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, racing marathons in America and overseas on a hand crank bike. He took second place in two races, including Brazil.
Restless for the next chapter in his life, Luke enrolled at his father’s alma mater, Florida State University, and joined the Kappa Alpha fraternity. After graduating, he followed some advice offered by the president of World Bank – “Do what you love” – and decided his future was in the outdoors.
Luke had grown up in a rural part of Palm City, Florida (Martin County), working on farms and thousands of acres of citrus. He loved wrestling his three brothers and the sense of competition in sports (football, baseball). He’d fought on land, defended the land and worked the land. It was now time to help others discover its bounty. Luke enrolled in a real estate course and earned his real estate license. He quickly exceeded sales expectations at his first employer and joined an upstart, Southern Land Realty in late 2013.
To date Luke has endured 31 surgeries, but it hasn’t deterred his level of activity. He enjoys racing his adaptive snow ski in the mountains of Montana and Colorado, hunting deer and shooting waterfowl with his Chesapeake Bay retriever, Bella Mae, as well as fresh and saltwater fishing. Luke served on the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities and has helped start philanthropies that allow wounded soldiers and other service members to enjoy the outdoors using adaptive devices to accommodate their unique disabilities.
He is a recent recipient of an accessible home through Homes for Our Troops.
Luke is frequently invited to give motivational talks and be interviewed for video recordings. He is on the National Campaign Team for the Wounded Warrior Project, joining other soldiers who tell their stories to raise awareness for the most recently injured servicemen and women while serving as an example of the successes one can achieve after injury.
His memoir, “Blasted by Adversity: the Making of a Wounded Warrior" was published Memorial Day weekend 2015. It received a gold medal from the Florida Authors & Publishers Association's President's Book Awards.