- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2007

In Washington these days, even a simple act to honor a veteran can fall victim to partisan rancor. Consider the case of Raymond G. “Jerry” Murphy, a Marine Corps officer during the Korean War who was awarded the Medal of Honor for courageously rescuing many of his fellow Marines one night in February 1953. He was also the recipient of a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. To honor Mr. Murphy, who died just last month, New Mexico congressmen and senators want to rename the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center in Albuquerque after him.

This seems a fair, fitting and entirely uncontroversial way to pay respect to a heroic and dedicated veteran. But the legislation has been stalled in the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Rep. Steve Buyer, ranking member of the committee, has written and called Committee Chairman Bob Filner, urging the California Democrat to move the legislation, under suspension of rules, out of committee and to a full House vote. “If you will not,” Mr. Buyer wrote in a May 11 letter, “please inform me in writing as to your substantive policy objections.” Mr. Filner didn’t respond — not surprising, since it’s hard to imagine any objection to honoring a veteran as worthy as Mr. Murphy.

The Medal of Honor citation reads, “2d Lt. Murphy steadfastly refused medical aid and continued to lead his men up a hill through a withering barrage of hostile mortar and small-arms fire.” It also says that “[u]ndeterred by the increasing intense enemy fire,” Mr. Murphy continued to locate casualties and “personally carried many of the stricken marines to safety.”

His service didn’t end when he left the Marine Corps, however. From 1974 to 1997, Mr. Murphy worked in the VA regional office in Albuquerque. Hardly could Mr. Murphy be more deserving of the honor his New Mexico delegation is trying to bestow.

The Veterans’ Affairs Committee has specific criteria for renaming a VA medical center; Mr. Murphy satisfies each point, as Mr. Buyer has pointed out. The legislation, moreover, has enthusiastic support from myriad veterans groups. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is on board. Companion legislation passed by unanimous consent in the Senate more than a month ago.

Democrats advance the cynical notion that Republicans support the legislation simply to provide an electoral boost to its sponsor in the House, Rep. Heather Wilson, who faced a tough re-election battle in 2006. The bottom line, though, is that a straightforward act to recognize a deserving veteran shouldn’t become a vehicle for partisan enmity. In the spirit of Memorial Day, we ask Mr. Filner to honor Jerry Murphy by advancing the bill.

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