I think I should take today’s column to look at the life and contributions of Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA-12), a man of principle who could change his mind and go with it. The Viet Nam vet was the first veteran elected to the House of Representatives. This past Saturday, February 6, 2010, Murtha became Pennsylvania’s longest serving Member of Congress.

Rep. Jack Murtha, D-PA

I think what he will be remembered for was his call for a withdrawal from Iraq. He stunned his fellow hawks in 2005 by urging a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, transforming the debate over the 2003 invasion launched during the administration of former President George W. Bush and making opposition to the war a respectable conservative position. He realized that the vote for funding the war he had made in 2003 was the wrong vote. House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey said Murtha was a friend to the military who “understood the misery of war.”

Murtha voted in 2002 to authorize President George W. Bush to use military force in Iraq, but his growing frustration over the administration’s handling of the war prompted him in November 2005 to call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. “The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion,” he said.

He was also known as the “king of earmarks” which he defend vigorously since the practice benefited his district which comprises sic counties in southwestern Pennsylvania full of coal mines, steel mills and blue-collar values.

For the Democrats, keeping that seat for the party will be an uphill battle. The district has been leaning right for the past few years. For what its worth and whether or not you agree with everything Murtha did in his years as an elected representative, he did put people and country first.