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Army center renamed for Murtha

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

JOHNSTOWN -- The late U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha added another accolade to his long list on Wednesday: namesake of the Johnstown area's Army Reserve Center.

The center on Goucher Street in Upper Yoder, Cambria County, became the John P. Murtha U.S. Army Reserve Center during a midday ceremony that celebrated Murtha's commitment to the nation's armed forces.

Murtha, who died in office in February 2010, was a decorated veteran and the first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress. He made funding the military one of his highest priorities.

"That trial-by-fire in the jungles of southeast Asia certainly had a lasting effect on Rep. Murtha," said Maj. Gen. William D. Razz Waff, commanding general of the 99th Regional Support Center. "One of the most tangible results of that experience was his unyielding attention to military issues during his 19 terms in the House of Representatives."

Razz Waff said that while providing soldiers with the best possible facilities, equipment and training is part of his job, "without the legislative support of individuals such as Rep. Murtha, I would not have the necessary funding."

U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, who served as Murtha's district director and later won his boss' seat, said renaming the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Murtha's honor was fitting because Murtha understood the need to support the National Guard and the Army Reserves in addition to the active-duty branches of the military.

"As the years went by ... Mr. Murtha recognized how important the Guard and the Reserves were to our projection of strength and he made it his goal, he made it his job, to make sure that they were taken care of," Critz said. "That could not be more evident than in our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Critz recalled how people, upon meeting Murtha, used to remark that they felt like he was really listening to them. That "left-handed compliment" wasn't just a feeling, Critz said; it was fact.

"He was listening to you -- that's what Mr. Murtha was all about," Critz said. "He was listening at every step."

But Murtha didn't just listen to soldiers stationed throughout the United States. Murtha's nephew, Col. Brian Murtha, a former Marine helicopter pilot who now works in the legislative liaison's office, said "Uncle Jack" used to visit soldiers on foreign soil to find out what they needed to do their jobs.

"He'd come back here and ... he would call the Secretary of the Navy or the Commandant of the Marine Corps... you name it, all the leadership in Washington, and say 'I want to talk to you,'" Brian Murtha said. "He would share with the leadership what he had learned on those trips as well as ask those leaders, 'What can I do for you to make those men and women successful?'"

Other facilities bearing Murtha's name throughout the region include the John P. Murtha Regional Cancer Center and the John P. Murtha Neuroscience and Pain Institute, both in Johnstown, and the John P. Murtha Institute for Homeland Security at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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