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Joe Marm’s natural reaction was to take his hat off as a show of gratitude.
Marm, a quiet resident of Fremont since 1995, was one of 15 Medal of Honor recipients to be recognized at Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.
“It was very special with all the applause just to be in the company of the two football teams and also the other Medal of Honor recipients, to be with them and be at the Super Bowl,” said Marm. “I have never been to a Super Bowl before, so that was unique to be there for the first time and to be honored and to be out there on the field.”
Marm and the other recipients stood together at midfield at the beginning of the game as World War II veteran Woody Williams, himself a Medal of Honor recipient, tossed the coin to determine which team would receive the kickoff.
“Woody is a legend. He was on Iwo Jima and they had a very high mortality rate, particularly his job of carrying a flamethrower,” Marm said of Williams. “He was able to make it through and earned a Medal of Honor for his actions. He is one our four living recipients from World War II of the 71 that are still living total.”
But for the people in Fremont, it is Walter Joseph Marm Jr. who is the legend.
Marm, a native of Washington, Pennsylvania, enlisted in the U.S. Army five days after graduation from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
In a 30-year career that spanned from 1964 to 1995, Marm completed two tours in Vietnam.
It was on Nov. 14, 1965, during his first tour, that a young 1st Lt. Marm led a platoon on a mission to relieve a friendly unit that had been surrounded by the enemy.
The officer’s actions on that day resulted in him being presented the Medal of Honor on Dec. 19, 1966 “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.”
“Realizing that his platoon could not hold very long, and seeing four enemy soldiers moving into his position, he moved quickly under heavy fire and annihilated all four. Then, seeing that his platoon was receiving intense fire from a concealed machine gun, he deliberately exposed himself to draw its fire. Thus locating its position, he attempted to destroy it with an antitank weapon,” the citation reads. “Although he inflicted casualties, the weapon did not silence the enemy fire. Quickly, disregarding the intense fire directed on him and his platoon, he charged 30 meters across open ground, and hurled grenades into the enemy position, killing some of the eight insurgents manning it. Although severely wounded, when his grenades were expended, armed with only a rifle, he continued the momentum of his assault on the position and killed the remainder of the enemy. 1st Lt. Marm’s selfless actions reduced the fire on his platoon, broke the enemy assault and rallied his unit to continue toward the accomplishment of this mission. 1st Lt. Marm’s gallantry on the battlefield and his extraordinary intrepidity at the risk of his life are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.”
Leon Mooring, an alderman in Fremont, didn’t get to watch all of Sunday’s Super Bowl, but he was in front of the television when his friend walked out onto the field.
“Anything Joe does just thrills me to death because I am ex-military also,” said Mooring, who is also a Vietnam veteran, having served in the Air Force. “Joe has done an awful lot for our country and he deserves everything he gets. I am just so proud of him as I can be.”
“Everybody from Fremont just thinks an awful lot of Col. Marm,” said Mooring. “I just can’t say enough about Joe. He is a very nice man and he has done an awful lot for the country. He’s a real good friend of mine. We go to a lot of ballgames together, baseball, softball, basketball. I enjoy his company very much.”
Fremont resident Vicky Stewart stepped up to the television to snap a photograph while her neighbor was on the screen.
“It was fun to know somebody who was actually there on the field at the Super Bowl and most especially when you understand why he was there,” Stewart said.
“It is really big news,” said Jamillah Scott, accounting clerk for the town of Fremont. “Most of the guys in public works and all of the people here in the office were talking about it. We were like, ‘Really? Did that happen?’”
Some 67,612 people were in attendance at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for the big game. An estimated 103 million people watched on television.
Marm’s wife, Deb Yelverton Marm, a Fremont native, made the call recommending her husband for the recognition and then volunteered her ticket to Marm’s youngest son, Lt. Col. William Marm, of the U.S. Army Special Forces, so he could attend with his father.
At one point Joe Marm and the other Medal of Honor recipients were in a holding area with other NFL greats.
“I was able to talk to a few, the Navy quarterback, a Heisman Trophy winner from Annapolis, Roger Staubach,” Marm said of the onetime Dallas Cowboys star. “He said he was in Vietnam too after he graduated from Annapolis and before he went into the NFL.”
Marm is one of only 71 Medal of Honor recipients who are still living. The medal is the highest and most prestigious personal decoration.
The retired colonel said he doesn’t often think about his days in Vietnam but does think about his unit, Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
“I was just fortunate to be with a unit that had been training and working together testing the helicopters before we went to Vietnam, so it was a well-disciplined and trained unit that had been working together for over a year,” Marm said. “It was a combination of enlistees and draftees.”
Marm said attending the game with his son will remain one of the great experiences of his life.
“It was cold, but it wasn’t that cold in the stadium. They took very good care of us. We had a great time,” Marm said. “It was a very good game, a very close game. Just a tremendous experience.”
Super Bowl LII went down in the record books with Philadelphia defeating New England 41-33.