Selfless Service - The Brian Murphy Story
Brian Murphy probably isn’t a household name unless you’re from Wisconsin or a member of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin community. On August 5, 2012, Lt. Brian Murphy, an officer with the Oak Creek Police Department and Marine Corps Veteran, was the first to respond to the shooting that left six victims dead and a seventh injured at the scene. Brian was shot 15 times in pursuit of the gunman, including in the head, and it was a miracle he survived. In 2015, Murphy was awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor. This is the highest national award for valor that can be awarded to a public safety officer and was established by Congress in 2001 for going above and beyond the call of duty and for “Exhibiting unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her personal safety, in an attempt to save or protect human life.” In this regard, it is not unlike the military’s Medal of Honor. Many have hailed him as a hero, his arrival likely saving and untold number of community members at the temple. But Murphy doesn’t see it that way.
Brian sharing his story and experiences today
“I’m just Brian,” he insists. “I think that’s what saved me and I think you have to be true to who you are.” In the aftermath of the shooting, he said there was a lot of pressure and expectations to live up to the hero persona from others who may have read about the event or watched it on the news but not actually lived it. “Other than missing my thumb and having a weird voice, I’m basically still the same guy,” Murphy shares. “While it did alter my life drastically, obviously I had to retire, basically I’m just me and I was very fortunate obviously to be alive.”
Since retiring from the police force, Murphy has been working with Armor Express, the makers of the body armor he was wearing on that fateful day that stopped three bullets from piercing his body, and serves as their Saves Program Manager. Murphy shared that the program was designed to support Armor Express “saves,” or those through the uniformed communities who have been saved while wearing their armor, and they do this by putting the family first. The road to transition wasn’t easy, especially given that he was work on the thesis for his master’s program in organizational leadership when he was shot.
“That’s probably the hardest part of what happened,” he admits. “At the time, I was just about to complete my master’s and I had one more class to go through with FEMA to get my professional certification as an emergency manager. My forward thinking that at the time I was 49 almost 50 and I could do three or five more years before I retire. And it was waking up August 6th and realizing the life I had chosen post-service was gone and now Plan B needed to happen right now. So for me it was ‘Well what are you going to do now?’ And I had a hard time with it.”
After meeting Matt Davis, the Chairman of the Board and founder of Armor Express, and being invited to join him at an event in Las Vegas, Murphy started to see the pieces of his Plan B fall into place. Murphy remembers that when Davis told him they had a plaque made to honor him, his response was he had so many plaques he could build a separate shed for them. What he needed, he said, wasn’t another plaque memorializing that fateful day – what he needed was someone to talk to. “I need somebody who has been through what I’ve been through so I don’t feel like I’m all by myself,” Murphy recalls saying and that Davis responded by letting him know about the Saves Program. “And that was such a great outlet for me because I got to talk to guys who had been through what I’ve been through. And it’s funny because all those guys, all of them, say the same thing. You feel like you’re on an island. By having that ability to talk to them and help them and what I did was try to connect them.”
Murphy recognized the need to connect both members of law enforcement who have experienced similar situations that he has and their families in meaningful ways. “Most importantly, for me, is their families because I think in law enforcement we do a horrible job of recognizing families and recognizing whatever you go through as an officer is what your family goes through.” He shares that his wife went through a lot of uncertainty, especially waiting on the sidelines for hours on end while he was in surgery not knowing if he was going to live or die. Murphy’s advice is don’t ask your peers in uniform how they’re doing, which he considers to be a weak question, because they’ll usually answer with a generic “I’m good,” while they continue to silently suffer. Instead, he suggests to try asking open-ended questions along these lines:
- What are you feeling?
- What can I do for you?
- How’s your family doing?
Brian with his family today
Due to the abrupt change in his own retirement plans due to injuries sustained on the job, Murphy realized that working with the Armor Express’ Saves Program was an opportunity to help others understand the need for their own Plan B. “You have to have a plan for yourself,” he stated. “You have to have a plan for your family. You need to have more than one plan.” He wants officers who have had careers cut short due to injuries to know that they are not alone and there are resources out there they could utilize and others who have been through the same unknown they can talk to. “I’m here for a reason and I made it through for a reason,” Murphy shares. “That reason as far as I can tell is to help other officers who have been through things. Being not 100% yourself doesn’t mean anything. But I’m still me, and you have to always go back to yourself and go back to your family. Be that original person and don’t let getting out of the service change you.” Today, Murphy continues his work with Armor Express and has helped organize several Saves retreats at Torch Lake, in northern Michigan where they invite Armor Express “saves” and their families to just connect and help each other and make that isolated island just a little bigger.
To learn more about the Armor Express Saves Program, visit them here: https://www.armorexpress.com/saves/
Lt. Brian Murphy also recommends checking out Blue H.E.L.P., an organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health within the law enforcement community, provide support to law enforcement for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, and bring awareness to officer suicide. You can learn more about this organization by visiting them here: https://bluehelp.org/