written by Hayden Hillyer
ATLANTA—Michael Murphy (J.D. ’19) chose Georgia State University, College of Law because he considers it to be a premier law school with the most flexible class schedules in Georgia for non-traditional students.
Murphy’s path to law school was anything but traditional.
He served in the Georgia Army National Guard from 2003-2015. In 2005, Murphy was deployed to Mahmudiyah, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mahmudiyah was known as the “Triangle of Death.” Murphy’s most frequent encounters with enemy combatants were what he classified as “minor skirmishes and ambushes from enemy insurgents.” However, the defining moment of his military career was anything but minor. In September 2005, Murphy was on patrol with his platoon in Mahmudiyah on what they called “Route Sportster.”
“Our mission in that area was to conduct patrols of the area in order to ensure the stability of Iraq’s fragile and fledgling new government,” said Murphy.
Patrols were conducted in a four-gun truck platoon consisting of 15 men. Murphy sat atop the lead truck as the machine gunner, who was responsible for the front security of the platoon. “Momentarily, my platoon stopped along the road because the second and third gun trucks were having radio problems. Suddenly, an anti-tank mine exploded between the second and third gun trucks,” said Murphy. Both crews in the second and third gun trucks were wounded in what Murphy soon realized was a compound ambush. With two teams wounded, the remaining crews of the front and rear gun trucks were responsible for treating and evacuating the wounded. As a result, he and the rear machine gunner had to provide security until helicopters could arrive to evacuate the wounded. Eventually, they ran out of machine gun ammunition and were forced to use their rifles and sidearms to continue moving forward. Ultimately, they fought their way out of the ambush and got their wounded teammates back to safety without losing a single soldier. Murphy recounted his arrival at base following the ambush as the proudest moment of his military career. When asked about why, Murphy said, “It was because of what my teammates and I overcame together and risked for each other. That bond we forged will last a lifetime.”
In 2015, Murphy left the Army as a Captain. However, he also served in law enforcement during the latter portion of his military career. He served six years as a Gwinnett County Police Officer, where he was initially assigned to the Uniform Division. Later, he earned the privilege of serving on the Gwinnett County DUI Task Force for two years, where he primarily patrolled the I-85 NB corridor in search of intoxicated and reckless drivers. During his time on the Task Force, Murphy also earned his Drug Recognition Expert Certification.
Murphy ended his law enforcement career in August of 2016, which is when he began law school at Georgia State. His goal when he arrived on campus was to continue his career in the criminal justice field by becoming a prosecutor, and that goal has never changed.
He is graduating with the Spring 2019 class and leaves a useful bit of advice for current and future law students. He stated that everyone in law school is a beginner in the profession, regardless what experience or achievements one may have prior to beginning law school.
Murphy said, “There is no shame in stumbling, as long as you keep moving forward.”
When discussing how to handle adversity, Murphy said, “fight the natural instinct to quit and keep going, so that you can become the person you were destined to be.”
If there is one take-away from Murphy’s story, it is to keep moving forward.