Former reserve pararescue honors fallen SEAL

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Luke Johnson
  • 943rd Rescue Group Public Affairs
What started off as a silent tribute to Medal of Honor recipient and Navy SEAL, Lt. Michael Murphy, and those who were killed during Operation Redwing six years ago, has turned into an annual nationwide Memorial Day event that involves a demanding workout.

Initiated by Special Operations Airman turned flight surgeon with the 943rd Rescue Group here, the intense effort required to complete the workout is a fitting tribute to the hard-charging Navy's Special Forces community, and fallen servicemembers everywhere - endured by anyone who wants to pay tribute to them.

"Since 2006, I started doing the "Memorial Day Murph" workout on my own," Said Capt. Joshua Appel, 306th Rescue Squadron flight surgeon.

In his prior position as a pararescueman, Captain Appel and his combat-search-and-rescue team recovered both Lt. Michael Murphy and rescued Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor of the Operation which took more lives from the Special Forces community since the Vietnam War.

During his second year of plowing through the strenuous workout while finishing his medical residence in New York, he initiated a Memorial Day challenge at a local gym. Everyone chose their own tribute regiment. The following year on Memorial Day, gym members got with the Murph Workout program.

Upon returning back to his home unit, the 943rd RQG in Tuscon, Ariz., Captain Appel shared his Memorial Day tradition with the owners of his new local gym, which led to the official founding of the Memorial Day Murph workout event.

"I told them about my involvement with Michael Murphy and the lone survivor, and we decided to create a fundraiser for servicemembers and their families," said Captain Appel.
The first year he did the Memorial Day Murph workout fundraiser with his local gym, they were able to raise $400, and later on that year Captain Appel reunited with lone survivor Marcus Luttrell; he suggested taking the fundraiser nationwide.

"For the past six months we have been organizing this event by getting the word out on Facebook and Twitter, and mostly word of mouth," said Captain Appel.

To his astonishment, the Memorial Day Murph blasted through the gym walls and into communities worldwide.

"People are doing this at schools and military bases globally. They're hosting Memorial Day Murph celebrations that start with the workout and end with camaraderie - barbeque-picnic style ," he said.

The money raised from the event will go to the Lt. Michael Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation, The Lone Survivor Foundation and the Wounded Warriors Project.

"It's about going out and doing something, putting forth some effort by putting a little blood, sweat and tears into Memorial Day - to give people a flavor of what military members have sacrificed for our freedom," said Captain Appel.

The Memorial Day Murph workout consists of a one mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and another one mile run in body armor or 20-pound vest. The work out can be done as a team or individually. Individuals of various fitness levels can participate in the event and spread the workout over the day. While the 20-pound vest or body armor adds a sense of realism, it's completely optional. 

Lt. Michael Murphy used to do this workout preparation for his deployments and did it wearing his flack vest. He referred to the workout as "Body Armor" and was renamed "Murph" after his death.

"A lot of people look at the workout and say, 'that's crazy! I can't do it,' but really anybody can do it; it's just a matter of scaling it," said the former pararescueman.

"You can adjust and do things to your ability, you can walk a mile, you can substitute pull ups with band assists, and you can do pushups on your knees. You can even break it up over a week."

Captain Appel emphasizes the work out is for all ages and fitness abilities. "It's about putting forth the effort," he said. And that's what gives it meaning.

To learn more about the Memorial Day Murph workout and fundraiser, visit

For more information about the 920th RQW, log on to the wing's Web or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.