Once each year in the United States, the Army and Navy military academies compete on the football field. In honor of today's game, we salute Army Sgt. Marty Maher, who personally knew and inspired more Army officers than anyone else in history. How did he do it?
In 1896 Marty came to New York State from his home in Ireland. A clumsy lad, he found work as a waiter in the West Point dining hall, and after breaking countless dishes, he enlisted as a private in the Army. He was assigned to the West Point gym, where he claimed he could not swim a stroke, but from 1899 to 1928, he taught hundreds of young cadets with names like Bradley, Pershing and Eisenhower to swim. Marty not only knew them all. He nurtured them, winning so much respect that the corps of cadets named him an honorary member of the classes of 1912, 1926 and 1928.
After 55 years at West Point, Marty wrote a memoir called "Bringing Up the Brass." The preface was written by one of his former cadet swimming students, General Dwight Eisenhower, who would soon be elected President. Ike wrote, "I cannot put too high an estimate on the help Marty gave my morale. With his quick Irish wit and talent for understanding, he did the same for many others. This forward is meant to be a testament of the admiration and affection one soldier feels for an old friend, associate and helper, Sgt. Marty Maher of West Point."
Marty died on 17 January, 1961, at age 84, and is buried in the West Point Cemetery. His life inspired a movie called "The Long Gray Line" starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara. Here's an 8-minute clip from the film. www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPuPC0WDVyM
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