Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Pamela Murphy ... a Marvelous Being

Pamela Murphy, widow of WWII hero and actor, Audie Murphy, died peacefully at her home on April 8, 2010. She was the widow of the most decorated WWII hero and actor, Audie Murphy, and established her own distinctive 35-year career working as a patient liaison at the Sepulveda Veterans Administration hospital, treating every veteran who visited the facility as if they were a VIP.

Any soldier or Marine who came into the hospital got the same special treatment from her. She would walk the hallways with her clipboard in hand making sure her boys got to see the specialist they needed.

If they didn't, watch out. Her boys weren't Medal of Honor recipients or movie stars like Audie, but that didn't matter to Pam. They had served their country. That was good enough for her. She never called a veteran by his first name. It was always "Mister." Respect came with the job.

"Nobody could cut through VA red tape faster than Mrs. Murphy," said veteran Stephen Sherman, speaking for thousands of veterans she befriended over the years. "Many times I watched her march a veteran who had been waiting more than an hour right into the doctor's office. She was even reprimanded a few times, but it didn't matter to Mrs. Murphy. "Only her boys mattered. She was our angel."

Audie Murphy died broke in a plane crash in 1971, squandering millions of dollars on gambling, bad investments, and yes, other women. "Even with the adultery and desertion at the end, he always remained my hero," Pam told me.

She went from a comfortable ranch-style home in Van Nuys where she raised two sons to a small apartment - taking a clerk's job at the nearby VA to support herself and start paying off her faded movie star husband's debts. At first, no one knew who she was. Soon, though, word spread through the VA that the nice woman with the clipboard was Audie Murphy's widow. It was like saying General Patton had just walked in the front door. Men with tears in their eyes walked up to her and gave her a hug.

"Thank you," they said, over and over.

The first couple of years, I think the hugs were more for Audie's memory as a war hero. The last 30 years, they were for Pam.

One year I asked her to be the focus of a Veteran's Day column for all the work she had done. Pam just shook her head no. "Honor them, not me," she said, pointing to a group of veterans down the hallway. "They're the ones who deserve it." The vets disagreed. Mrs. Murphy deserved the accolades, they said.

Incredibly, in 2002, Pam's job was going to be eliminated in budget cuts. She was considered "excess staff." "I don't think helping cut down on veterans' complaints and showing them the respect they deserve, should be considered excess staff," she told me. Neither did the veterans. They went ballistic, holding a rally for her outside the VA gates. Pretty soon, word came down from the top of the VA. Pam Murphy was no longer considered "excess staff."

She remained working full time at the VA until 2007 when she was 87.

"The last time she was here was a couple of years ago for the conference we had for homeless veterans," said Becky James, coordinator of the VA's Veterans History Project. Pam wanted to see if there was anything she could do to help some more of her boys. Pam Murphy was 90 when she died last week. What a lady.

Dennis McCarthy, Los Angeles Times on April 15, 2010 ~

Medal of Honor

Distinguished Service Cross

Silver Star (with oak leaf cluster)

Legion of Merit

Bronze Star (with oak leaf cluster and Valor device)

Purple Heart (with two oak leaf clusters)

U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal

U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal

Presidential Unit Citation (with First Oak Leaf Cluster)

American Campaign Medal

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France))

World War II Victory Medal

Army of Occupation Medal (with Germany Clasp)

Armed Forces Reserve Medal

French Fouragère in Colors of the Croix de guerre

French Legion of Honor - Grade of Chevalier

French Croix de guerre (with Silver Star)

French Croix de guerre (with Palm)

Medal of Liberated France

Belgian Croix de guerre (with 1940 Palm)

The Combat Infantry Badge

I cannot help but arrive at my own personal conclusion, my Dear Reader …

It seems to me that this Dear Lady’s being who she was … outweighed all of the accumulated awards, bestowed upon her husband, for all of his doing, of all that he did.

I am blessed to know, and have, in the past known, a few, very heroic, noble, and brave Individuals who fight daily battles with courage and effort equal to that of the most celebrated and decorated of Warriors. They will never receive any medals ... and, alas, they rarely enjoy even the most elementary of acknowledgement or notice.

Yet, it is my sincere conviction that they are crowned with a glory that surpasses the most bejeweled of crowns. They can face themselves and Eternity with the firm and solid confidence that they have given all that they had at their command for the highest and noblest of callings. They have given, and give, themselves, to Being all that they can Be. I salute them!

Pamela Murphy's story is yet another instance of One’s Being all that One can Be … having far more eternal merit than all of the most celebrated of Doings.

But, then again, that is merely my own perspective.

Your constant Friend and humblest of Servants,

My sincere "Thank You" to Carole for sharing this lovely story with me.


Betsy said...

What a wonderful and courageous story! Thanks for sharing it!
I also enjoyed seeing all of the medals and their names!

lime said...

she walked very boldly through the door opened by her late husband and made the room her own. hero indeed.

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