Rep. Murtha laid to rest

“We will never see his like again.” 

One sentence uttered by a somber Speaker Nancy Pelosi encapsulated the service Tuesday.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) led a large congressional delegation to the funeral service for Murtha in Johnstown, Pa., the late lawmaker’s hometown. Murtha, 77, died Feb. 8 from complications after gallbladder surgery.

Pelosi, one of Murtha’s closest friends and allies in Congress, was one of three speakers to eulogize him, alongside the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, and Donna Murtha, the late lawmaker’s daughter.

Pelosi remembered Murtha the  “patriot, champion, hero, giant,” and spoke of his legislative power as “a master at work”; his seat on the House floor “respectfully” and sometimes “fearfully” known as the Pennsylvania corner; his dislike of long speeches; his dedication to medical research and his love for the men and women in uniform.

When Murtha famously came out against the war in Iraq, after voting to authorize it, Pelosi said that he never wavered in his support for the military.

“He taught us to make a distinction between the war and the warrior,” she said from the pulpit of the Westmont Presbyterian Church in Johnstown.

C-SPAN and the Pennsylvania News Channel carried the funeral service live. Joyce Murtha, the late lawmaker’s wife, wanted the service to be “as public as possible,” said presiding Rev. Douglas Stevens.

Pelosi, visibly saddened and reserved, sat in the pew next to former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonJOBS for Success Act would recognize that all people have potential Howard Schultz is holding the Democratic Party hostage Hill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides MORE, was close to Murtha. Murtha was instrumental in helping her rise to the Speaker position. Murtha also endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 presidential race.

Behind Pelosi sat a large congressional delegation, including Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), Bill Young (R-Fla.), the ranking of the House Appropriations Defense Committee, James Moran (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), among dozens of other lawmakers. Fifteen members of the Pennsylvania delegation served as honorary pallbearers.

Murtha, a decorated Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran, received full honors from the Marines on Tuesday — a gray, cold day engulfed by a relentless snowfall. A Marine band played the hymn “Faith of Our Fathers” and about 60 Marines stood at attention as Murtha’s casket, draped in the flag, was carried in and out of the church.

Conway, the Marine commandant, was expected to present the flag to Murtha’s widow at the private funeral following the service.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CIA Director Leon Panetta, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, as well most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military service secretaries, attended the service.

Pelosi and the congressional delegation flew into the John P. Murtha Airport and traveled past defense plants the congressman brought into his hometown as chairman of the Appropriations Defense subcommittee, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, which reported on scene.

Murtha attracted criticism, particularly in the last couple of years, over earmarking millions of dollars for his district. The Johnstown airport, for which Murtha steered millions in federal funds, attracted its share of controversy on the House floor last year. But throughout his congressional tenure, Murtha has been credited with bringing economic development to his once-depressed district, hit hard by the loss of steel and coal jobs over the last two decades.

One speaker at the funeral services made light of the criticism surrounding Murtha’s earmarking, drawing laughter from those who came to pay tribute to the late lawmaker and his family.

Father William George, a Jesuit priest and president of Georgetown Preparatory School, read a portion from the Book of Ecclesiastes and made his own addition to the text.

“The writer of Ecclesiastes could also have written ‘a time to make law and a time to change laws,’ he said. “And yes, ‘a time to earmark.’ ”

Donna Murtha chose a personal tribute for her father who talked to her every day. They never talked about politics and economy, but rather about her teaching job, and about her mother, Joyce.

“He was very proud of my mother,” said Donna Murtha.

Joyce Murtha did not address the congregation, and the few times the cameras focused on her at the beginning, she appeared somber, yet composed, before those who came to honor her husband. Even before Murtha’s funeral, party insiders, including some in the House, started to suggest that the Democratic nomination might be offered to Joyce Murtha, according to the Post Gazette.