There are only 72 Medal of Honor recipients still living, and two of them will be at Heinz Field tonight as a part of the Steelers Salute to Service game.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that is bestowed upon a member of the United States Armed Services and is normally presented by the President of the United States.
Tonight, when the Steelers play the Carolina Panthers, the team will present the ATI Salute to Heroes award to two of those amazing individuals, Colonel Joe Marm and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel Woody Williams.
Marm, who is from Washington, Pa. and is a life-long Steelers fans, served in the Vietnam War and is the only surviving Medal of Honor recipient from Pennsylvania. Marm, who served in the U.S. Army with the 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. The unit was responsible for deploying the Army’s first airmobile troops and to test using helicopters to insert troops into combat.
Marm went into battle with his unit, and as a 1st Leutientent at that point he took the lead and responsibility of protecting his men. His unit was on a mission to help others who were surrounded by an enemy force. Marm led the group through fire, and they were forced to take cover. Marm saw four enemy soldiers moving into where they took position, and under fire he took them out. He then saw his platoon under intense fire and exposed himself to draw fire away from them. He was able to take out those in enemy position, and although injured from grenades, he continued to fight the enemy and took out the entire group of insurgents. His actions allowed his unit to continue on their mission, and his gallantry reflects what being a member of the United States Army symbolizes.
“Some people say the Medal is harder to wear than it is to earn,” said Marm in a previous interview. “I’ve always been very humble and feel that I wear the Medal for all those soldiers in the 1st Cavalry who were there in that battle and other battles. I’m just the caretaker of the Medal for them. There're so many valorous deeds that go on in combat, they all can’t be recognized. I’m no braver than many of my fellow soldiers, I’m just grateful that they authorized me to wear it for them.”
Marm returned to active duty after recovering from his injuries and requested that he be sent back to Vietnam. Marm committed himself to the military for most of his life, not retiring until 1995.
His full list of awards and decorations include the Medal of Honor, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster.
Williams, a West Virginia native, served in World War II and is the last surviving Marine with a Medal of Honor from WWII and the last recipient from West Virginia still alive.
Williams, who is a spry 95-years old, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division. His heroism in the face of enemy resistance helped to neutralize one of the toughest defensed Japanese strong points, and his aggressive fighting spirit and devotion to duty represent what the U.S. Navy is about.
After the war he worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 33 years as a Veterans Service Representative, serving veterans and their families. He also served as the Commandant of the Veterans Nursing Home in Barboursville, WV for nearly 10 years and still serves on the Governor's Military Advisory Board in West Virginia.
Williams also has his own foundation, which helps those who have served and the Gold Star families who have lost loved ones, focusing on honoring Gold Star Families and their fallen heroes by establishing Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in communities in all 50 states, offering scholarships to Gold Star children, and more.
Williams’ service has not gone unnoticed, and the Navy named and entered into service the USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams mobile base sea vessel. The Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams Armed Forces Reserve Center in Fairmont, WV, is the only National Guard facility in the country named after a Marine. In addition, there is the VFW Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams Post 7048 in Fairmont, WV and the main bridge in Barboursville, WV is named for him as well.