John P. Murtha, Man in the Arena

04/11/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Jack Murtha is a personal hero of mine. An indefatigable supporter of the military and the military family, this conservative Democrat was the presidential "go-to man" on defense issues from as early as President Reagan right through President George W. Bush until Mr. Murtha's extraordinarily courageous act calling for change in Iraq. Congressman Chris Carney, who knew Congressman Murtha well, said it perfectly for the military and veteran family:

"... As a steadfast guardian of our Armed Forces, the troops came first for Jack, as he was always willing to stand up and fight for them, no matter the political cost or prevailing opinion. Because of his tenacious advocacy for better armor and equipment, generations of our fighting men and women owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. Jack Murtha cast a long shadow and so many of us were privileged to seek its shade. As a fellow veteran, I am honored to have called Mr. Murtha my colleague, my mentor, and my friend. I will miss his sage counsel and advice, but mostly I will miss his humor, warmth and that big Irish smile. The Pennsylvania corner of the House chamber will never be the same."

It is difficult to believe that I met Jack Murtha and his superb staff less than five years ago following his heroic stand on the Iraq War. From the Profiles in Courage Award:


Oh, the war supporters on the right came after him. Rove and the rest of the right wing hate machine attacked him and hours upon hours of airtime, billions of pixels and thousands of pro war fanatics also attacked Jack Murtha's military service, personal integrity and very patriotism while seldom addressing his arguments.

I volunteered to aid the Congressman. The people of his district amazed me. They stood by Jack Murtha; Max Cleland coined the slogan: "We got your back, Jack" and the constituents demonstrated they did indeed. When the swiftboaters rolled into town, they were met by Murtha supporters in multiples of any crowd the swiftboaters could muster. The Congressman was reelected twice by large margins since then, which says it all. A lot of words will be typed about Congressman Murtha but Teddy Roosevelt's words of long ago ring best to me about Jack Murtha:

The nation is a stronger and better place because of Congressman Murtha's service and a sadder place because of his loss.