Meet John P. Murtha

U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha has dedicated his life to serving his country both in the military and in Congress. He had a distinguished 37-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring as a Marine Corps Reserve colonel in 1990. He was the first combat veteran of Vietnam elected to Congress, and has served 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.

Congressman Murtha has brought thousands of jobs to Western Pennsylvania. He has been a catalyst for programs that redefined our region as a leader in defense, health-care, robotics and software engineering. As the mines and mills closed, he led the region in a new direction, attracting and growing defense companies, through which more than 5,000 jobs have been created. 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. Among other things, he helped to save Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); move Medicare to pay for mammograms, flu shots and other preventive care; and save the health care program of retired miners.

He has started a crusade to reverse the diabetes epidemic. UPMC's Diabetes Institute has initiatives for diabetes prevention, education and outreach, and Children's Hospital is pushing to cure Type 1 diabetes through initiatives he supports. 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 could significantly advance efforts to eradicate breast cancer.

He long ago recognized tourism as an economic generator, pushing two National Heritage Areas -- Rivers of Steel, dedicated to preserving the history of Big Steel, and the Path of Progress interpreting the westward expansion of the early U.S. He has supported major improvements to the four National Park sites in the region along with development of the Flight 93 National Memorial. And he has championed the Great Allegheny Passage-Cumberland and Pittsburgh Trail as well as other key recreation projects.

Congressman Murtha is ranking member and former chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. 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.

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. And for his stand on Iraq, motivated by his sincere interest in the brave men and women who wear the uniform of this great nation, he was recently selected to receive the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.