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Mr. John Patrick Murtha, Jr.
Branch of Service:
Marine Corps
City: Johnstown
State: Pennsylvania
County: Cambria
Honored By:
Wife Joyce Murtha, and Children, Donna, John and Patrick
Military Service:

John Patrick Murtha, Jr.
Served his country in war and peace

Early years
John Patrick Murtha was born into an Irish-American family in New Martinsville, West Virginia on June 17, 1932, and later lived in Western Pennsylvania. As a youth, he was an Eagle Scout, delivered newspapers, and worked at a gas station. Even in his early years, he followed his grandmother’s guidance, “we are put on this earth to make a difference.”

College and Military career
Mr. Murtha attended Washington and Jefferson College but left in 1952 to join the United States Marine Corps (USMC). In his early years in the USMC, he became a drill instructor and was then selected to attend Officers Candidate School. After his active duty time, he remained in the USMC reserve and served in numerous command positions. He also attended the University of Pittsburgh using the GI Bill where he earned a degree in economics. He volunteered for active duty during the Vietnam War and served as a battalion S-2 staff officer in Vietnam. He received the Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He ended his military career as a Marine Corps Reserve Colonel in 1990 and received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal upon retirement.

Service to his nation in Congress
Mr. Murtha was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1969 and then to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974 in a special election after the unexpected passing of U.S. Representative John P. Saylor. Mr. Murtha won the special election by 122 votes and became the first Vietnam combat veteran elected to Congress. His 37 years in the House of Representatives made him the longest-serving member ever elected from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At the time of his death on February 8, 2010, he was the eighth most senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Of the over 10,600 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who served since 1789, only 61 served longer than Mr. Murtha. During his long tenure in Congress, he became a powerful force advocating for a strong national defense, helping the poor and middle class obtain the economic and social benefits they deserve, and becoming a trusted advisor to Presidents and world leaders. He was also known for getting things accomplished in Congress working in a bipartisan fashion for the good of our nation.

Lasting impact on our Nation and national defense
By faithfully living the words of wisdom his grandmother had given him, “we are put on this earth to make a difference,” he became a force in Congress for advocating for our national defense, by ensuring our warfighters had the best weapons, equipment, and vehicles to keep our nation safe. His reputation in Congress on defense knowledge and expertise was unsurpassed, including for the safety and well-being of the individual soldier. During congressional breaks, he visited our troops and military bases around the world. Mr. Murtha’s vision and his passion for our warfighters to be the best equipped for the next war, led him to participate in the decision to create Metalworking Technologies Incorporated and its successor organization, Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC), a leading-edge applied scientific research and development organization. CTC was formed so that the cutting-edge technologies it developed could be used directly by the U.S. Defense Department or other companies in the defense industry. CTC’s success and fulfillment of its mission continue to be a lasting tribute to Mr. Murtha’s legacy.

Lasting economic impact on our region
Words cannot fully allow one to appreciate the impact that Mr. Murtha had on the areas he served. Yes, there are statues, charitable foundations established in his honor, and buildings and public places named in his memory. However, the challenges that he undertook when the Johnstown region had the highest unemployment rate in the nation (as a result of the demise of the coal and steel industries) were daunting. By using his political prestige, and by sheer will and conviction, he was able to help the region retrain its work force and diversify the region’s economy into a defense industry powerhouse as well as enhance healthcare capabilities, financial services markets, and manufacturing companies. Today, the region’s economy is vibrant with a manufacturing base that helps serve our nation’s national defense and security needs and provides supporting jobs in other sectors. Another lasting legacy to Mr. Murtha is the strong local economy which now exists. It provides the resources needed by families to live the American Dream. Yes, he made a big difference.

Support of charitable and community organizations
The not-for-profit, social services organizations and veterans groups Congressman Murtha supported in his district were guaranteed to have successful events or reach their fund raising goals because of his active engagement. Some of the organizations included the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Veteran Community Initiatives, Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, the American Heart Association, and numerous others. Mr. and Mrs. Murtha also attended numerous events to show their personal concern and commitment to the specific cause. Mrs. Murtha has continued this role in the community after Mr. Murtha’s passing.

Family and personal life
Mr. Murtha met his wife, Joyce Bell, while stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, as she grew up on a farm near Jacksonville, North Carolina. Mr. Murtha went to file a claim at an insurance company where Ms. Bell worked and when he saw her, he immediately asked her for a date. According to Mrs. Murtha, she said no because she did not know “this handsome Marine” but he was persistent, and she eventually agreed to let him drive her home to meet his parents.

Later he was transferred to Quantico, VA, and he drove every weekend to North Carolina to see her. Ms. Bell then moved with a friend to Washington, DC to work and the romance continued. They were married on June 10, 1955. Prior to starting his political career, Mr. Murtha, while attending the University of Pittsburgh on the GI Bill, developed a business plan to start a new type of car wash, the minute car wash. His research also required a strategic location. Johnstown was perfect with many dirty cars from the fly ash from the steel mills and road salt due to large snow falls in the winter.

They moved to Johnstown, PA, where the car wash became a successful business. They settled in Johnstown and began a family. Mr. and Mrs. Murtha have three children, Donna, twin sons John and Patrick, their wives Kathy and Lynn, and their grandchildren Jack, Anne, and Clayton.

To learn more about the life and accomplishments of Mr. Murtha, you can read information from the following sources.
John Murtha – WikipediaUSS John P. Murtha – WikipediaJohn P. Murtha Center for Public Service

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