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Former Army Under Secretary explores civilian-military divide during Penn Law Veterans Week

November 13, 2017

By Lucy Porter C’18

On November 8, former Under Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy held a discussion on civilian and military service as the keynote event for this year’s Penn Law Veterans Week. The conversation Murphy was facilitated by Colonel Adam L. Ron.  

Murphy was appointed Under Secretary of the Army and Chief Management Officer by President Obama in 2016. His previously served as congressman for Pennsylvania’s Eighth Congressional District, a U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps criminal prosecutor, and an assistant professor of law at West Point.

Murphy came from a family of public servants, he explained. He attended King’s College, where he was a cadet in ROTC and captain of the hockey team, and he served in the Army Reserve while he attended law school at Widener University.

He stated that it was the events of 9/11 that inspired him to serve overseas. Much of his time abroad was spent as a brigade lawyer, where his responsibilities stretched to cover 1.5 million Iraqis.

Even after his time abroad, Murphy continued to give back. “Service is in my heart,” he said. “Even if I am not directly serving the government I am a servant in many ways.”

One change he is seeking to effect is the civilian-military drift. The United States has been at war for over 16 years, he said, and has asked less than one percent of the nation to serve. Of this one percent, 79 percent come from military families.

Murphy stated that because of this and many other factors there is a clear disjoint between civilians and service members. But he does not believe that disjunction falls exclusively on the government’s shoulders. A meaningful solution will require a whole county effort, he said.

He noted that even if direct service is not for everyone, there are ways to give back. And there are meaningful ways to engage with those who do decide to give back through military service.

“Don’t just say thank you for your service,” he said. “Engage with them, show them you care.”