FREDERICKSBURG FREE LANCE-STAR
On Nov. 9 the Celebrate Veterans Group of southern Stafford County hosted “A Celebration of Veterans” with more than 200 dignitaries, guests and residents in attendance. The gathering honored Vietnam War-era Medal of Honor recipient and retired Army Col. Walter Joseph Marm Jr., as the centerpiece of its observance of Veterans Day. Marm was awarded the United States military’s highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the battle of Ia Drang in 1965. The battle marked the first major engagement of U.S. troops in Vietnam and has been chronicled in books and the motion picture “We Were Soldiers.”
The event included significant fanfare with bagpipes, colonial uniforms and an a cappella chorus. The American and Virginia state flags were ushered into the Celebrate ballroom by four men dressed in colonial uniform from Washington’s Cruisers Camp, Fredericksburg Chapter 545. Marm and his wife, Deborah, were escorted into the room by bagpipe and drum music played by members of the Kena Highlanders from Manassas. The 15 member a cappella chorus of North Stafford High School, directed by Lindsay Long, brought the house to a standing ovation after its renditions of the national anthem, “America the Beautiful” and “Armed Forces Medley.”
Marm’s address recounted his career in the U.S. Army. With respect to being awarded the Medal of Honor he commented, “sometimes people say that the Medal is harder to wear than it is to earn.” He humbly relayed, “I feel that I wear the Medal for all those soldiers in the 1st Cavalry who were in that battle, and I’m just the caretaker of the Medal for them. There are so many valorous deeds that go on in battle. I’m no braver than my fellow soldiers, and I’m so grateful that they authorized me to wear it for them.”
Spanberger recounted her commitment to and the importance of American veterans in our history and recalled the many members of her family who had served in the military over multiple generations. Crenshaw, a 35-year veteran of the Marine Corps, discussed the importance of the 700,000 veterans living in Virginia to our economy and culture and the efforts of the state on their behalf.
The evening was summed up by Celebrate resident and veteran Michael Flood who said, “Something special happened in that ballroom; 200 people suddenly became galvanized with American patriotism.”
In addition to Marm, keynote speakers included U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, and retired Marine Maj. Gen. Craig C. Crenshaw, Virginia’s Secretary of Veteran Affairs and Defense. Also in attendance were Delegate and State Senator-elect Tara Durant, Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Catherine Greenlaw and Mayor-elect Kerry P. Devine, Stafford County Sheriff David Decatur, Stafford County Board of Supervisors member Tom Coen and recent state senate candidate Joel Griffin.