Patrick Murphy

TELLING STORIES — Former Pennsylvania congressman Patrick Murphy speaks during a recent appearance hosted by J.J. Murphy at Crazy Otto’s Restaurant in Lancaster.

LANCASTER — A local weekly veterans gathering got a visit recently by a for­mer congressman and un­der­secretary of the Army, who co-authored the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and opened the door for women to serve in all jobs in the Army, including combat units.

Former Pennsylvania con­gress­man Patrick Mur­phy is also “kid brother” to Palm­dale Assistant City Manager J.J. Murphy. The former undersecretary — the number two Pentagon position for the Army’s civ­il­ian leadership — was hosted at Crazy Otto’s Restaurant by J.J. Murphy, a retired Air Force officer, who completed his career as a major.

“He was a paratrooper,” J.J. Murphy said. “He served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq.”

Speaking to a group of about 70 veterans of the na­tion’s armed services, the talk began with ribbing and laughter around which ser­vice arm holds pride of place, Murphy quip­ping that “Marines, you know what that means — ‘Muscles Are Re­quired, Intelligence Not Es­sen­tial.”

Retired Marine Master Sgt. Leonard Thornton roared back, “You know what Army stands for, ‘Ain’t Ready For Marines Yet.’ ”

How the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard fared in that round of clever put-downs was lost in a roar of good-natured jeers. Then Pat­rick Murphy got down to business. His first order of business was to extend sin­cere compliments and re­spect to the men and women in the room, many of them Vietnam War vet­er­ans, but also those from the Korean War and even World War II.

Taking note that the group’s president and its host — Army veteran Juan Blan­co and Crazy Otto’s owner Jin Hur — were work­ing the room and pour­ing coffee, Patrick Mur­phy, an Army captain, said, “In Iraq, the officers would serve the troops first and I have to compliment you for that.”

Patrick Murphy, born in 1973, as the United States was winding down its ground war in Vietnam, said, “For our generation of Post-9/11 veterans, we know that the Vietnam War generation were not treated the way you should be treated when you came home. And it was the Vietnam War veterans who made sure that when my generation came home, you said, ‘Welcome Home, Brother.’ ”

Patrick Murphy, 45, grad­u­ated from college through Army ROTC, then went to law school and taught constitutional law at West Point as a professor, and was an officer in the Judge Advocate General Corps.

“It’s been an honor to serve in the Army and to teach at a place like West Point with its 4,000 cadets,” he said. He added, “West Point is both the Ath­ens and the Sparta of Am­er­ica.”

All cadets are fit and com­pet­itive in sports, he said, but added: “They are also the Top 10 every year in Rhodes Scholars and Oxford Scholars. The mis­sion statement is to inspire lead­ers of character for a lifetime of service.”

As a centrist Democrat from Pennsylvania, Pat­rick Murphy was a co-auth­or on the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. He also co-authored with Congressman Patrick Ken­ne­dy in pressing for the Mental Health Parity Bill, to expand access to men­tal health services.

“Mental health is as im­portant as physical health,” he told the veterans. “In the military, it can be seen as a sign of weakness to get counseling. But it is not that. It is strength. It is resiliency.”

Twenty veterans a day com­mit suicide and two act­ive duty military troops do the same — a trend that must be reversed, Patrick Murphy said.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he volunteered for overseas deployment, ser­ving in Bosnia in 2002 and in Baghdad during the Iraq War, in 2003–04, ac­cording to his Army biography.

Patrick Murphy was con­firmed as under sec­re­tary of the Army by the Sen­ate on Dec. 18, 2015, after having been nom­in­a­ted for the position by the pres­ident on Aug. 5, 2015. He was sworn into the post on Jan. 4, 2016.

While in Baghdad as a JAG Corps attorney with the U.S. 82nd Air­borne Division, he worked to reconstruct the justice sys­tem and helped pros­e­cute Sheik Mo­ham­med Ali Hassan al-Moayad, a lieutenant of Muqtada al-Sadr, the former Shiite in­surgent militia leader who became president of Iraq.

While assigned to the 82nd, Patrick Murphy was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious ser­vice in Iraq. Following his service in Iraq, he re­turned to Fort Bragg and con­tin­ued his service as a JAG officer, before being re­leased from active duty in 2004.

When they complete their hitch and return to so­ci­ety, veterans of military ser­vice “come home more like­ly to be employed than non-veterans. They are more likely to start small businesses and they are more likely to vote in elec­tions than non-vet­erans. They want to give back, because they are leaders of character,” he said.

With 18 million Amer­ican veterans ranging from service in World War II to the current wars after the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, “veterans want purpose-driven lives.”

Patrick Murphy noted that at city hall, “Someone like my brother becomes part of this community and lives by the ethic that we leave no one behind.”

Veterans, he said, have innovated, led and created cor­por­ations such as FedEx, Comcast, Johnson & Johnson and Nike.

Patrick Murphy, a Dem­o­crat, served two terms in Con­gress and was defeated in the Republican wave elec­tion of 2010.

Shortly after being sworn in as the undersecretary of the Army, Murphy as­sumed the role of acting sec­re­tary of the Army.

During his tenure as acting secretary, Patrick Mur­phy became well-known to soldiers for vis­it­ing units across the world, par­ticipating in physical training sessions, engaging them directly via social media and personally wri­ting Army-wide emails. On Jan. 29, 2016, he issued a for­mal directive opening all combat arms positions to females.

Veterans, Patrick Mur­phy told the audience at Coffee4Vets, represent the strength of the nation.

“A quarter million vet­er­ans transition every year ... and about half are now going on to higher ed­ucation, and out into the private sector,” he said.

Editor’s note: Some bio­graph­ical material in this story was aggregated from a variety of sources, in­clu­ding Congressional and Dep­artment of De­fense rec­ords, Roll Call and ac­counts from the Wash­ing­ton Post and Citizens Voice of Wilkes-Barre, Penn­syl­vania.

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