Student honors local hero with hand-cut flag

Project, inclusion in museum is testament to STEM initiatives


Ryan DiPrima, a Connetquot High School student, constructed a wooden flag in his technology class that was put on permanent display at the Lieutenant Michael Murphy Museum in West Sayville as a symbol of its namesake’s enduring valor and the organization’s commitment to youth engagement in the community.

“Ryan’s father and I are very proud of his hard work. It’s an honor to have something he helped to build be donated to the museum,” said Ryan’s parents, Sandra and Eric.

Connetquot technology teacher, Jon Pope, who also heads the high school’s winning robotics team, said that introducing students to “real-life engineering” and trades like carpentry is an essential, lifelong skill that utilizes hands-on, tactile methodology.

“I find building things very interesting and it’s a fun hobby for me. It is good to learn how to build and fix things so you can do the work yourself and not have to hire someone,” said Ryan.

The project idea was developed after a school field trip to the Michael Murphy Museum, where Pope and Ryan discussed donating a present on behalf of the Connetquot student body.

“We wanted something that captured what Lt. Murphy’s sacrifice meant to the community,” said Pope.

Operation Red Wings was “the worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began nearly six years ago. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II,” according to the museum website.

On June 28, 2005, while behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the altitude of approximately 10,000 feet.

The SEALs, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, were scouting Ahmad Shah—a terrorist in his mid-30s who grew up in the adjacent mountains just to the south.

Shah led a guerrilla group known to locals as the “Mountain Tigers” that had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border.

A firefight erupted between the four SEALs, who were outnumbered by more than 50 anti-coalition militia.

Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates.

The wooden flag built by Ryan always double as a challenge coin, according to Pope. As Ryan’s father is in law enforcement, and Ryan himself is a junior volunteer firefighter, the challenge coin is of particular importance to the family.

Made from hand-cut, rough-sawn maple, the flag was constructed during study halls and lunch periods.

“My interest in carpentry and building things started with my dad, [who] would build things all the time at home, and he always would teach me and have me help. So he started getting me interested in it,” said Ryan. “I am honored to have Mr. Pope’s and my work displayed at the museum. It was an honor and privilege to work with Mr. Pope on this project. Lt. Murphy was a hero and to build something for his family was a huge honor.”

Connetquot superintendent Dr. Joseph Centamore spoke of the district’s commitment “to providing our students with innovative hands-on courses and activities through our Technology Education program and STEM initiatives.”

“Lt. Michael P. Murphy is a national hero. The Navy SEALs represent an elite component of America’s armed forces. As a school district, we are filled with tremendous pride knowing that Ryan’s beautiful craftsmanship, created under the tutelage of Mr. Pope, will be so honorably displayed in the museum,” said Centamore. 


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