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Fremont resident Col. Walter Joseph “Joe” Marm (U.S. Army retired) and his wife, Deborah, have plans to attend a big baseball game in a few days that has been on their schedule and on their minds for quite a while.
The couple is among a group who was invited by commissioner of baseball Rob Manfred to be his guests at the 89th Major League Baseball All-Star game hosted by the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 17.
The invitations stem from Joe Marm being among the few living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States military’s highest decoration for valor in combat, for his actions in the Ia Drang Valley on Nov. 14, 1965, during the Vietnam War.
Other medal recipients have been invited by Commissioner Manfred to attend the baseball game as well.
Marm said he was “truly honored” to be invited to the game and that being a medal of honor recipient has also allowed him to do some other things that he has enjoyed like meeting all the U.S. presidents since Lyndon Johnson, attending presidential inaugurations and attending funerals at Arlington National Cemetery for members of his Vietnam unit.
He also was a guest at football’s Super Bowl in January.
Marm, a native of Washington, Pennsylvania, was born Nov. 20, 1941, and graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in 1964.
He joined the United States Army and his first duty assignment was in Vietnam as a second lieutenant in Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
Marm received the medal of honor in a ceremony on Dec. 19, 1966.
As quoted directly from the text of his citation:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, as a platoon leader, 1st Lt. Marm demonstrated indomitable courage during a combat operation.
“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.”
As the citation text suggests, Marm played an important role in the Battle of Ia Drang in what was to become a major campaign of the Vietnam War.
“We had 79 soldiers killed and 121 wounded in the Ia Drang campaign,” said Marm.
The movie “We Were Soldiers” (2002) starring Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott tells the story of the battle.
Marm still speaks highly of his fellow soldiers while he was in Vietnam and said he has stayed in touch with many of them since the war.
Marm met his future wife, the former Deborah Yelverton of Fremont, in 1986 when she was working for U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms in Washington and he was working with the legislative affairs office of the United States Army.
The couple was married in 1987 and lived in several locations over the next few years before they decided to move back and settle in Deborah’s hometown.
The Marms eventually had four children and seven grandchildren, and those families are now spread all over in D.C., Philadelphia and Colorado.
Joe Marm retired from the army as a colonel in 1994 following a 30-year career.
He now spends much of his time on the Yelverton farm doing things like cutting grass while his wife still works in the Greenville office of U.S. Rep. Walter Jones.
Marm also attends many area high school sporting events and being a huge baseball fan, especially enjoys watching American Legion baseball games.
Keith Barnes, a Wilson storyteller and author, is news editor of the Kenly News, where this column originally appeared.