Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Leadership Lecture Series: Medal of Honor recipient shares story with SJ Airmen

by Airman 1st Class Shawna L. Keyes
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


6/5/2014 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FOCE BASE, NORTH CAROLINA  -- "Warrior is a word we often say in the military, but today that word holds a very special meaning," said Col. Jeannie Leavitt, 4th Fighter Wing commander as she introduced Walter "Joe" Marm Jr. to the stage.

"Our guest speaker embodies the very spirit of the warrior," she added. "A person who has shown great vigor and courage under duress; a true leader.

Marm, a retired U.S. Army colonel and Medal of Honor recipient, spoke to Team Seymour May 28, as part of the 4th Fighter Wing Commander's Leadership Lecture Series at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

The series began in April 2013, as a forum for Airmen to interact with and learn leadership skills from senior leaders and influential people in the military and community. In the past, the series featured guest speakers such as Leonard Hunter, a Tuskegee Airman, David Randall, a leadership professor, and Simon Sinek, a visionary thinker and innovational speaker.

Marm spoke to those in attendance about his combat experience during the Vietnam War and the circumstances that led him to receive the Medal of Honor, the military's highest decoration.

"It's very humbling to talk and listen to a recipient of the Medal of Honor," said Capt. Nick Jurewicz, 4th Fighter Wing executive officer. "Hearing his stories and the reflections of his past experiences in Vietnam first-hand, were really breathtaking."


He commissioned in the Army in 1965 and quickly found himself shipped out to Vietnam.

During his time in Vietnam, Marm, was assigned as a platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division. One day, his company was assigned to relieve a friendly unit surrounded by enemy forces.

Realizing the plight of his platoon, Marm deliberately exposed himself to heavy fire while ordering his unit to retreat.

"It was one of the first major battles of the Vietnam War," said Marm. "We went in with one battalion of 450 soldiers, and we were surrounded and out numbered. However, I was determined to make sure we left that fight with close to as many people as I arrived with."

Disregarding the intense fire directed at him, he hurled grenades into the enemy position. Although severely wounded, and armed with only one rifle, Marm continued his assault and killed the remainder of the enemy. The enemy assault would later be titled the Battle of la Drang. His selfless actions reduced the fire on his platoon, broke the enemy assault, and rallied his unit to continue accomplishing the mission.

"It was a pretty tough fire fight," said Marm. "We were out-numbered 3,000 to 450.

Marm was awarded the Medal of Honor, nearly 13 months later by then Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor.

During the lecture, Marm also characterized the theme of his displayed leadership as 'lead by example' mentality.

He encouraged Airmen to always act and present themselves as they would like those under their command to. He went on to mention how those around him influenced his accomplishments in Vietnam.

"I remember one of my superiors telling the soldiers under him that he would be the first one in and the last one out in a battle," Marm said. "I was in awe of how he devoted himself fully to his men. I later adopted that same type of leadership mentality. That way of thinking is probably what led to the actions I took on that day in Vietnam."

At the conclusion of the lecture, Leavitt presented Marm with a Team Seymour plaque. Airmen were also able to greet Marm and share their own personal stories with him.

"Meeting a Medal of Honor recipient is a rare occurrence," Jurewicz said. "This is probably a once in a lifetime event. I plan to take everything I learned today and apply it to my own leadership skills. It's not every day that you get an opportunity to learn from one of the best."

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