Almost everyone knows about Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier in World War II. For his combat actions in the European Theater, Murphy received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars and three Purple Hearts.
But fewer know the story of his widow, Pam. After her husband's death in a 1971 plane crash, Pam Murphy went to work as a clerk at the Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center, a VA facility in North Hills, California.
To some degree, Mrs. Murphy's decision was a necessity. Her husband squandered much of the money he made as an actor and songwriter, and died deeply in debt. Instead of throwing up her hands--or blaming her husband--Pam Murphy went back to work to pay off Audie's bills.
But her job at the VA was also a labor of love. As Dennis McCarthy wrote in his most recent column for Los Angeles Daily News, Pam Murphy became a tireless advocate for veterans at the Sepulveda Center, particularly those who served in World War II. She had a knack for cutting through bureaucratic roadblocks, ensuring the veterans received the care they needed.
Any soldier or Marine who walked into the Sepulveda VA hospital and care center in the last 35 years got the VIP treatment from Pam Murphy.
The widow of Audie Murphy – the most decorated soldier in World War II – would walk the hallways with her clipboard in hand making sure her boys got to see a specialist or doctor — STAT. 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.
After more than 30 years of service at the facility, the VA tried to eliminate her position, describing Pam Murphy as "excess staff." Patients at Sepulveda went went ballistic, holding a rally for her outside the facility's gate. Soon after, VA administrators in Washington decided that Mrs. Murphy's job would be retained. She kept working at Sepulveda until her retirement in 2007, at the age of 87.
Funeral services for Pam Murphy will be held tomorrow in Los Angeles. Mr. McCarthy's column didn't list details for her burial, but we hope that Mrs. Murphy will eventually join her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.
A fitting, final resting place for a hero.