(Stars and Stripes)

Since joining Military Matters as co-host in Season 3 in 2021, journalist and former Army Ranger and Green Beret Jack Murphy has tackled everything from murders and sexual assault in the services to deep dives on China, North Korea and Russia.

For his final appearance on Military Matters, Murphy sits down with co-host Rod Rodriguez to discuss his story: why he joined the Army and became a Green Beret, the start of his journalism career and where he’ll go next.

Murphy covered much of this ground in his 2019 memoir, “Murphy’s Law,” including a friendly fire incident involving Murphy that took place in Afghanistan in 2004. That was a recon mission at the location of the terrorist who planned a supposed ambush on NFL player Pat Tillman, though it was later revealed Tillman was himself killed in a friendly fire incident in 2004.

“There was an incredible amount of shame attached to all that, embarrassment that I was a failure as a soldier,” Murphy said. “But I mean, a lot of that really just kind of motivated me and made me — like, I knew that if I quit now, if I threw in the towel, got out of the Army, I knew this was something that would haunt me for the rest of my life. And so after that deployment in Afghanistan, I mean, six months later, I'm on a next deployment with Ranger Battalion going to Iraq. So I mean, I didn't really slow down at all. And then same thing, going to SF was just — all of that was sort of, part of it was my way of putting it behind me and proving to myself that this one event doesn't define who I am.”

Murphy also recalled his early years in journalism, when he made reporting trips to Syria, Iraq and the Philippines. Around 2018, he began reporting more about sexual assaults, murder and crime in the military, which eventually began to weigh on him. The last couple of stories he wrote, about the suicides of Army intelligence operative Michael Froede and Navy SEAL Bill Mulder, were a turning point.

“By the time I got to them, I remember my hands would just not work at the keyboard, like I had just hit some sort of wall,” Murphy said. “And because of who I am — and I realize I'm not like totally emotionally in touch with myself, like my body has the reaction before my mind does, right? And so my fingers won't work. I can't type this story out. What's going on? … I've never had this sort of like, quote unquote, writer's block. And I realized, yeah, this is just stacked up on me, man. It's wearing down on me, you know, talking to women, crying their eyes out on the phone, scared to death because they were raped by a lieutenant colonel, you know, whatever, all kinds of different stories like this.”

You can find Military Matters on Twitter @stripesmmpod.

Follow Jack Murphy on Twitter @jackmurphyrgr and Rod Rodriguez @rodpodrod.

A transcript of the episode can be found here.

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Brian McElhiney is a digital editor, podcast editor and occasional reporter for Stars and Stripes. He has worked as a music reporter and editor for publications in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Oregon. One of his earliest journalistic inspirations came from reading Stars and Stripes as a kid growing up in Okinawa, Japan.

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