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Welch and Congressman Murtha Rally "for Those Who Serve"

Location: Burlington, VT

Welch and Congressman Murtha Rally "for Those Who Serve"

Congressman Jack Murtha (D-PA), U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and Democratic candidate for Congress Senator Peter Welch held a rally highlighting the importance of honoring those who serve today at Burlington's waterfront.

The leaders, joined by veterans and the father of soldier currently serving in Iraq, highlighted how the President's "stay the course" policy in Iraq must be changed in order to end the war and to bring our troops home, and that we must ensure adequate funding for veterans' benefits for the soldiers who have fought for us.

Congressman Murtha has represented Pennsylvania's 12th District for more than 30 years and has served 37 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

"To honor those who serve, we must have a Congress that will demand a plan from the President to get our troops home from Iraq and ensure they have the benefits they deserve when they come return," said Welch. "'Stay the course' is not an acceptable course."

Last winter, Welch and Murtha both demanded a change of course in Iraq, calling for a plan to begin withdrawing our troops and transferring control of Iraq back to the Iraqi people.

"President Bush and the Republican leadership have failed to show political leadership to match the courage and idealism shown by our service members by not addressing the need for a plan to get us out of Iraq," added Welch.

"This Congress has sent our men and women off to war praising them for their service and while they are gone cut their benefits," said Welch. "It is wrong."

Murtha noted that, "Peter has taken a courageous stand in support of our troops and has outlined thoughtful strategies to move our Iraq policy in a new direction. The people of Vermont would be well served by his leadership in Congress and I look forward to working with Peter Welch when he joins a new, Democratic majority in the House."

As Senate President, Welch led in restoring funding for mental health services for guard members cut by the federal government this winter.

Earlier this fall, Welch outlined his goal to establish a "GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century," an initiative developed by the Democratic House leadership as a priority if they take control of Congress. As part of this initiative, Welch would work to:

* Improve health and education benefits for members of the National Guard and Reservists
* Adequately fund veterans health care programs
* End burdensome penalties on benefits (repeal Disabled Veterans' Tax and end Widow Tax)
* Modernize and enhance the GI Bill Education and Job Training programs

"Congressman Murtha and Senator Welch are men of courage and conviction. Our state and our nation are better off for their service. Now, more than ever, we need strong leaders who aren't afraid to speak their mind. We need Peter Welch to join John Murtha in Congress to help take our country in a new direction," remarked Leahy.

As a retired Marine who received a Bronze Star with Combat "V" and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, Murtha has become well known nationally for his courageous stand on Iraq, motivated by his sincere interest in the brave men and women who wear the uniform of this great nation. For his call to responsibly redeploy the troops, he was recently selected to receive the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.

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