The recent death of retired Marine Rep. John Murtha sent shock waves through the military and political communities.
In Columbus retired Maj. Gen. Jerry White said he lost a good friend Monday and a loyal supporter of the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.
“John Murtha was a very powerful person,” said White, who is the president of the National Infantry Foundation. “He had his friends and he had his enemies. That’s just the way politics shakes out. But in my case I’m a friend of his.”
The Pennsylvania Democrat, who was the first Vietnam War combat veteran elected to Congress, died Monday after suffering complications from gallbladder surgery. He was 77.
Several years ago, White visited Murtha on Capitol Hill to drum up support for his project. During that meeting, White initially asked Murtha for funding to build the Parade Field that now sits on the grounds of the museum.
“I initially asked him for $5 million to build the Parade Field and he said, ‘Yes,’” White said. “And he helped me get that $5 million. And he’s been instrumental every year at getting the foundation money for the new National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.”
The retired general said that without the continued support of Murtha and his protege, Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, the museum might never have been built.
Now that one of the foundation’s most powerful advocates has died, White said the museum’s flow of funding from Washington could be compromised.
“A lot of people I don’t think understand that, although the museum is standing there in all its glory, we still have a long ways to go to pay off the project,” White said.
Even so, White thinks the National Infantry Foundation can count on the continued and generous support of lawmakers such as Bishop in the future. White said he’s now going to focus on remembering the type of Marine, leader and friend Murtha was.
“We involved in this project will sorely miss Congressman Murtha because not only was he a great supporter of soldiers and the military and this project, I consider him a personal friend and a great retired soldier,” White said.