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Pelosi Remarks at Dedication Ceremony of John P. Murtha Cancer Center

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at a dedication ceremony for the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:   

“Good morning.  Thank you Colonel, the Chief of Staff at Walter Reed, for your generous introduction, for the invitation to be here today.  To you, Commander Admiral Alton Stocks, Murtha Center Director, Colonel Shriver, and the staff of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, our nation is grateful to you for your work to heal the nation’s heroes and care for the men and women in uniform and their families.  I also want to recognize Dr. Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, for your leadership on behalf of the well-being of members of the military and for being with us today.

“Now, when Joyce [Murtha] got up here, she said she wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to – and I’m not sure either, but Joyce is our leader in all things Murtha, and I hope that I can have her dignity and talk about Jack without getting too emotional.

“I want to join everyone who has acknowledged the Murtha family, for sharing Jack with us, for being with us today, grandchildren as well.  He always talked about them.  And I met Brian first in Kuwait at the very, just weeks before the initiation of hostilities in Iraq that long time ago.  And Jack was very proud of all of his family, including the association that you have with the Marine Corps.  Joyce is a very special source of strength to all of us.  Her quiet strength, her calmness, her dignity and abiding love enabled Jack to achieve great things for our country, and enabled us to continue honoring that work.   

“All of us here today are here to pay tribute to a dear colleague, and a cherished friend, Chairman Jack Murtha.  I know that my colleagues, and Senator Casey, have been acknowledged already.  I see that the Chairman’s dear friend, Chairman [Don] Young, has joined us now, as well as Mike Doyle, and I think they were all acknowledged earlier, but I have the honor of speaking on behalf of our colleagues in the House.

“Earlier, we heard that the Center is unique, and unique it is.  I’ll talk about why Jack Murtha is unique.  By dedicating the Murtha Cancer Center, we honor the life, legacy and leadership of a legislator unsurpassed in his talents, this Marine of undaunted courage.  His public service – a public servant to the end – to watch Jack Murtha legislate was to watch a master at work.  I took great pride in saying that in front of him.  I continue to hold that view.  Unsurpassed.

“He was a champion of Johnstown and his beloved state of Pennsylvania, a giant in the Congress, a hero on the battlefield, a strong voice for progress for our nation.  His life in public service was inspired by the charge of his grandmother, who told him as a child: ‘you were put on this earth to make a difference.’  And make a difference he did, through his stunning success in the halls of Congress, and through his enduring personal commitment to enhancing and enriching the lives of others, especially our men and women in the military.

“Jack truly made a difference whenever he visited our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at the Bethesda Naval Center and Walter Reed, across the country, and around the world.  He made a difference to our wounded warriors.  He bonded with these courageous young Americans as a soldier himself.  He cared for them as a father.

“Among the countless opportunities I had to join Jack on his visits with our troops, here and around the world, I’ll never forget the sparkle in his eye when he saw a Wounded Warrior – they told us we can’t go into the room yet, ‘he’s not ready.’  When he was ready we went in and there was this Wounded Warrior, standing by his bed, saluting Jack Murtha, wearing a Pittsburg Steelers jersey.   He had that sparkle in his eye when he saw that Wounded Warrior standing there.

“Jack made a difference to millions of Americans battling disease.  He fought to advance scientific research to seek treatments and a cure for breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.  He knew that the strength of our country is measured not only in the might of our military, as important as that was, but also in the health and well-being of our people.  There’s no doubt that Jack would take great, enormous pride in seeing his name inscribed on the side of the cancer center. I can just see him now, can’t you?  How he’d be smiling, connecting two of his great passions – combatting disease and caring for our military.

“Jack Murtha indeed, Grandma, made a difference for our national defense, for our nation’s health, for the men and women who wear our nation’s uniform.  The Murtha Cancer Center is a stirring tribute, a living tribute, to the difference he made and continues to make, to the progress he championed, to the extraordinary life he led.  ‘Semper Fi,’ the motto of the Marine Corps Jack served for thirty-seven years, was the motto of his life.  To the end, he remained always faithful to the principles, to his principles, to his values, to his promises, one thing kept here, to his fellow Americans.   He remained always faithful to God and country, to his hometown of Johnstown.  Most of all, of course, he was faithful to his family, to his beautiful Joyce, to his children and grandchildren.

“By cutting [the] ribbon on the John Murtha Center today, we remain always faithful to the causes of Jack’s life: the strength of our nation, the health of our Wounded Warriors, and the well-being of the American people.

“Thank you for honoring this patriot, this giant, this champion, our hero.  In Jack’s name and spirit, we look forward to seeing this center provide the highest quality of care to the members of our Armed Forces.  I know I can speak for my colleagues of either party when I say that it was always a privilege to call Jack a colleague, and an even greater honor to have him as a friend.  We all believe that God truly blessed America with the life and service of Jack Murtha.  Thank you.”