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A Soldier for Life Continues to Advocate for Military Troops

  • Marsha James

Duty. Honor. Country. Those three words speak to the work and service of former Undersecretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy.

He was taught by his parents to ‘make a difference in the lives of others.’

“Whether it was when I was a professor at West Point and I taught those cadets or in Iraq with the Iraqis in Baghdad that I served or even as Undersecretary of the Army, I would ask myself, ‘Am I making a difference in their lives, am I making a difference that will affect them and their families.”

Army Reserve Officer Training Corps was where it started for Patrick J. Murphy. Earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from King’s College in 1996, Murphy was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve. But instead of going directly to active duty, he enrolled in the law school at Widener University in Harrisburg, PA.

Putting to use his legal knowledge, Murphy worked in the office of the Philadelphia District Attorney office. He also was a leader in the Harrisburg Civil Law Clinic, an aid society for the poor, all while serving as a law officer in the Army Reserve. He earned his law degree in 1999 and a year later he went on active duty in the Army.

Patrick J. Murphy
Patrick J. Murphy

​On the heels of the US terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Murphy volunteered for deployment to Baghdad during the Iraq War in 2003. Murphy remembers a soldier asking him why U.S. troops were sent there.

“We’re here to do a job and to make sure that we do what we can to make a difference, a positive difference in these Iraqi’s lives so that they have a chance to have some of the same freedoms that we take for granted back at home.”

Murphy remained in military public service until 2004. In 2006, he became the first Iraq War veteran to be elected to U.S. Congress, representing the 8th Congressional District of Pennsylvania in 2007. He says he wanted to change policy.

“There wasn’t enough military troops while in Iraq and that they wanted to cut combat pay,” he recalls. Murphy says he didn’t feel that Washington was doing enough for the men and women in uniform and their families.

Murphy served on the armed services, appropriations and intelligence committees and was instrumental in enacting the Hire Our Heroes Act, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In January 2016, Patrick J. Murphy took office as the 32nd Under Secretary of the Army and Chief Management Officer. During his year-long presidential appointee position, Murphy worked to make the Army more innovative and responsive. He monitored spending, expanded the Soldier for Life program, which helps soldiers transition from military service, and encouraged the use of social media for recruitment.

"Ninety percent of teenagers, the folks that we're recruiting, get their news from social media, and that's where we need to be," he said.

Murphy was also able to make a difference with individual soldiers joining them for physical training (PT) routines. He says, “I would visit military units around the world and join in PT exercises with them. I wanted to show them that I am there biggest champion that I am one of them and I will always be a soldier for life.”

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