ROCKVILLE, Md. (RNS) Brian Murphy attended Catholic Mass regularly, both before and after he took 12 bullets while trying to defend a Sikh temple in Wisconsin from a gunman in 2012.
But he says the principles he’s learned from the Sikh temple have helped his recovery.
Now, a Maryland-based Sikh organization has honored the retired police officer for his service when a gunman killed six worshippers at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
The Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, a Maryland-based Sikh advocacy organization, honored Murphy on Sunday (April 13) — on Vaisakhi Day, a Sikh holy day — with a Sewa (service) Award, given annually to someone who has contributed to the Sikh community.
“We are highly grateful to him for his sacrifice and exemplary service to the law and order and providing protection to all citizens of Oak Creek, including the members of the Sikh community in Wisconsin,” said Inder Paul Singh Gadh, chairman of the foundation.
Murphy, the first officer on the scene, deterred what could have been a “much bigger massacre of Sikhs who were still trapped inside the gurdwara,” Gadh said.
In an interview before the ceremony, Murphy, 52, said he appreciates the foundation’s gesture.
“For them to take the time out to acknowledge my role in what happened is a very humbling experience,” said Murphy, who now speaks with a raspy reconstructed voice after one of the bullets traveled through his vocal chords and esophagus.
He was impressed that the Sikhs of Oak Creek forgave the gunman, Wade Michael Page, who killed himself in the temple’s parking lot.
“I wasn’t as quick to do that,” said the 22-year veteran of the Oak Creek Police Department, who retired with a medical pension in June after getting shot on what normally would have been his day off. “I have, but it took a lot longer.”
Through his new friendships with Sikhs — he has been back to the temple for visits since the shooting — he has come to embrace their principle of “Chardhi Kala,” which he defines as “optimism even in the face of great adversity.”
“That’s what helped me the most, even through the rehabilitation process,” he said. “I’ve changed much for the better.”
While holding firm to his Catholic faith, Murphy said he now sees commonalities between his religion and that of the Sikh worshippers who came to the temple on Aug. 5, 2012. The two faiths share many attributes, such as protecting, serving and living a virtuous life, he said.
“Sometimes I think we all like to think we have our own separate God,” he said. “I think (God’s) an amalgamation of all.”