The Patriot News reports on the passing of Rep. John Murtha.
A spokesman says Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a retired Marine Corps officer who became an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, has died. He was 77.
He had been suffering complications from gallbladder surgery. He died at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., spokesman Matthew Mazonkey said.
In 1974 Murtha, then an officer in the Marine Reserves, became the first Vietnam War combat veteran elected to Congress. One of Congress' most hawkish Democrats, he wielded considerable clout for two decades as the ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee that oversees Pentagon spending.
Murtha voted in 2002 to authorize President George W. Bush to use military force in Iraq, but Murtha's growing frustration over the administration's handling of the war prompted him in November 2005 to call 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.
Murtha's opposition to the Iraq war rattled Washington, where the tall, gruff-mannered congressman enjoyed bipartisan respect for his work on military issues. On Capitol Hill, Murtha was seen as speaking for those in uniform when it came to military matters.
Born June 17, 1932, John Patrick Murtha delivered newspapers and worked at a gas station before graduating from Ramsay High School in Mount Pleasant.
Military service was in Murtha's blood. He said his great-grandfather served in the Civil War, his father and three uncles in World War II, and his brothers in the Marine Corps. He left Washington and Jefferson 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.
Murtha moved back to Johnstown and remained with the Marine Reserves until he volunteered to go to Vietnam. He served as an intelligence officer there from 1966 to 1967 and received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
After his discharge from the Marines, Murtha ran a small business in Johnstown. He went to the University of Pittsburgh on the GI Bill, graduating in 1962 with a degree in economics. He served in the Pennsylvania House in Harrisburg from 1969 until 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."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Murtha family.