Colonel John Murtha
"As the first combat Vietnam veteran elected to Congress, Jack represented the U.S. House alongside President Reagan in commemorating the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War."
U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha has dedicated his life to serving his country both in the military and in the halls of Congress. He had a long and distinguished 37-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring from the Marine Corps Reserve as a colonel in 1990; and he has been serving the people of the 12th Congressional District since 1974, one of only 131 people in the nation's history to have served more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and one of only 224 Members of Congress who have served 30 or more years.
Congressman Murtha has worked hard to bring thousands of long-term, family-sustaining jobs to Western Pennsylvania. With the disappearance of the coal and steel jobs that for more than a century were the lifeblood of the area, he pushed the region in a new direction, intent on diversifying the economy to help insulate it from future shocks. In the early 1990s, new companies in an industry unfamiliar in Western Pennsylvania - defense - began to spring up, bringing more than 5,000 jobs to the district he represents. He founded the House Steel Caucus and has brought millions of dollars to the United Mine Workers to retrain displaced miners and train new miners.
He fights for policies that help people, including a patient's bill of rights, prescription-drug benefits, a better minimum wage, and protecting Medicare, Social Security and veterans' benefits. For example, when Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was about to be killed by federal regulations, he convinced the White House to be more flexible and saved the program. When EPA said the six-county Pittsburgh Air Basin would get no permits for industrial growth, he inserted language allowing time to finish a balanced, community-based plan. When Medicare refused to pay for preventive health care such as mammograms and flu shots, he included language in an appropriation that convinced the agency to provide coverage. He has twice saved the health care program of retired miners.
His crusade to improve the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians could benefit people across the nation. Determined to reverse the diabetes epidemic in Western Pennsylvania, he has directed funding to UPMC's Diabetes Institute for diabetes prevention, education and outreach, and to Children's Hospital for a project on Type 1 diabetes. He has forged partnerships between Western Pennsylvania hospitals and world-renowned institutions such as Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital, one of which has led to research that could revolutionize the early detection and treatment of breast cancer and significantly advance efforts to eradicate the disease.
He has played a major role in tourism development in the region, starting the National Heritage Area program, which includes two areas in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Rivers of Steel, dedicated to preserving the history of Big Steel, encompasses 3,000 square miles in Allegheny and six surrounding counties; and the Path of Progress winds through 500 miles in nine Southwestern Pennsylvania, linking heritage sites that pertain to the westward expansion of the early U.S.
His countless honors include the National Breast Cancer Coalition Leadership Award, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry's Government Leader of the Year, Pittsburgh's Riverperson of the Year and Pennsylvania's two highest honors, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.
Congressman Murtha is so well-respected for his first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues that he has been a trusted adviser to presidents of both parties on military and defense issues and is one of the most effective advocates for the national defense in the country. He is ranking member and former chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, a Vietnam combat veteran and a retired Marine Corps colonel with 37 years of service, a rare combination of experience that enables him to understand defense and military operations from every perspective.
He learned about military service from the bottom up, beginning as a raw recruit when he left Washington and Jefferson College in 1952 to join the Marines out of a growing sense of obligation to his country during the Korean War. There he earned the American Spirit Honor Medal, awarded to fewer than one in 10,000 recruits. He rose through the ranks to become a drill instructor at Parris Island and was selected for Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia. He then was assigned to the Second Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In 1959, Captain Murtha took command of the 34th Special Infantry Company, Marine Corps Reserves, in Johnstown. He remained in the Reserves after his discharge from active duty until he volunteered for Vietnam in 1966-67, receiving the Bronze Star with Combat "V", two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He remained in the Reserves until his retirement. This first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues has made him a trusted adviser to presidents of both parties and one of the most effective advocates for the national defense in Washington. At the request of Presidents and Speakers of the House, he served as chairman of delegations monitoring elections in the Philippines, El Salvador, Panama and Bosnia.
He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal by the Marine Corps Commandant when he retired from the Marines."