Marc W. Murphy – Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force

Courtesy of theBucks County Courier Times

The beach where Marc W. Murphy sunbathed, swam and relaxed with his family for years was the same beach that took his life Sunday afternoon.

It was the same beach where the Elizabeth, N.J., native had taken his family every summer for vacation and where he had dipped his 6-week-old daughter's feet in the ocean.

The 54-year-old Air Force lieutenant colonel was swimming  near Long Beach Island, N.J., when he drifted 250 yards from shore and was unable to fight the current. After two lifeguards tried and failed to rescue him, a third lifeguard managed to pull Murphy to shore.

“By the time they pulled him out, he was gone,” his daughter Jeanette Murphy said.

Marc Murphy, a psychiatric nurse for 25 years, was on leave from Iraq when he and his family went to the beach last weekend. Murphy had arrived in the United States Sept. 9, only a few days after his wife, Betsey, fled their Biloxi, Miss., home after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it.

Carrying only a plastic tub filled with photo albums and framed photos, Betsey arrived on Labor Day at her parents' house in Falls. Marc followed shortly after and stayed with his wife and in-laws.

“He was very glad to be home and to be here,” John Asma, Murphy's father-in-law, said. “When we went down to the beach, he was so excited by the trees and the grass. He kept saying, ‘Oh! Look at the trees! And the grass! They're green! We don't have that in Iraq!' ”

Later in the day, Murphy decided to go swimming. Although there were other swimmers in the water that day, none was from their group of friends, Asma said.

“[Swimming] was his routine,” he added. “He put his gear on and went out swimming. He had a happy day before he went swimming. When he came out, [the lifeguards] were pounding, pounding, pounding [on his chest]. But he was gone.”

Although the family moved around a lot, Jeanette Murphy said her father took the family to Long Beach Island every summer to rent a house on the beach.

“I think the first time he took me to the beach I was 6 weeks old,” she said.

The family described the father of four as a “family man.”

“He was so generous to us,” his daughter said. “He bought us all cars, put us through college, gave us money if we needed it.”

Murphy loved the Yankees, his family said, and he was looking forward to hopefully seeing the New York team win the World Series.

“He took me to a baseball game every time he came home,” Asma said.

“He was the kind of person that if you like something he helped you get it,” Michael Miller, Jeanette's husband, said, remembering the time Murphy bought him NBA tickets.

For now, the family is concentrating on moving forward.

“My dad was a strong Christian,” Bart Murphy, Marc's son, said, “and we understand [that] God's peace and love will get us through this.”

Colonel murphy will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 5 December 2005.

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