Home > Uncategorized > The End of Another Era: Jack Murtha, 77, Dies of Complications from Gall Bladder Surgery

The End of Another Era: Jack Murtha, 77, Dies of Complications from Gall Bladder Surgery

The United States lost another congressional hero today with the death of Jack Murtha (D-PA), 77.

Elected in 1974 as the first Vietnam War veteran elected to Congress, Murtha was the voice of veterans on Capitol Hill. As one of Congress’s most hawkish Democrats, Murtha wielded immense influence for decades on the House appropriations defense subcommittee, which oversees Pentagon spending, even serving as its chairman in 1989.

Murtha was also seen as the voice of those in uniform when it came to military issues.

This past Saturday, Jack Murtha became the longest serving member of Congress from Pennsylvania.

Despite his having voted in 2002 to authorize the Iraq war, Murtha became increasingly frustrated over the war. In November 2005 Murtha called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion,” he said.

As the Associated Press reports:

Murtha was born June 17, 1932. The former newspaper delivery boy left college in 1952 to join the Marines, where he rose through the ranks to become a drill instructor at Parris Island, S.C., and later served in the 2nd Marine Division. He settled in Johnstown, then volunteered for Vietnam, where he served as an intelligence officer and earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

He was serving in the Pennsylvania House in Harrisburg when he was elected to Congress in a special election in 1974. In 1990, he retired from the Marine Reserves as a colonel.

“Ever since I was a young boy, I had two goals in life — I wanted to be a colonel in the Marine Corps and a member of Congress,” Murtha wrote in his 2004 book, From Vietnam to 9/11.

Murtha was a tireless defender of the US military, but what not afraid to call a spade a spade. He was not above taking on his own Marine Corps, accusing Marines in 2006 of murdering Iraqi civilians “in cold blood” at Haditha.

Jack Murtha was a serious defender of earmarks, arguing that they helped both his constituents and the other citizens of Pennsylvania. While his practices raised the eyebrows – and sometimes ire – of ethics watchers, Murtha was never convicted of any wrong-doing. In the 1980 Abscam corruption probe, Murtha was not charged, but the government named him as an unindicted co-conspirator and he testified against two other congressmen.

Jack Murtha was not a personal friend, nor did I spend a lot of time working with him or his office. But I always respected him for his work on behalf of soldiers, on behalf of veterans, and on behalf of the people of his district and of Pennsylvania.

Murtha was not an angel; anyone in politics cannot be by nature. But Jack was a good man who worked hard to do well for and by the people he represented.

When Ted Kennedy passed away, his death became a sounding board for people’s personal politics. Let’s not let that happen with Murtha. Whatever you thought of him, his politics, or his acts, the only appropriate thing to do now is pray for the repose of his soul.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord,
And let perpetual Light shine upon him.
May his soul
And the souls of all the faithful departed
Through the mercy of God
Rest in peace.
Amen.

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