JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — In western Pennsylvania, Monday was the first day of deer season. But there's one thing people here are talking about even more than hunting.
"When he hit the news, it was big talk," says Lee Williamson. "I mean, all the bars, all the restaurants."
All that big talk is about whether Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., is right or wrong in calling for the troops to come home. Ask any two hunters, and you'll probably get two very different opinions.
"If he feels that strong about it, I back him all the way," says Martin Bucci.
"They can't let things the way they are like that," disagrees Charles Lupton. "It's a big mess. It ain't gonna get no better. They have to stay and finish the job."
Murtha says no issue, for him, has touched a nerve like this one.
"None of the things that I've ever been involved in, have I gotten such an outpouring of emotion from the people at home," he says. "They want us to change course. They want to hear some leadership."
Murtha's opinion on military matters carries a lot of weight here, primarily because he's a decorated Marine in a district with a large population of veterans.
Murtha says the response from veterans has been especially positive. At the local American Legion hall, that's just what we found.
"I'm for Murtha, whatever he says," says Sam Esposito. "'Cause he, he's worrying about the young guys who are dying off."
But even here there are some dissenters.
"You've got all those young men that have been, you know," says Tom Herdman. "And I think that would be a disgrace to leave now."
Letters — pro and con — have been pouring in to the local paper ever since Murtha changed his position.
"When he does speak out on an issue like this, people say, 'Well, we need to listen,'" says Bruce Wissinger, the opinion page editor of The Tribune-Democrat.
Wissinger says Murtha's stature on military issues is giving even some supporters of the war second thoughts.
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