Family with one member serving continuously for 70 years receives Sullivan Brothers award

Waterloo, IA

When veteran Richard Marvets heard about the Sullivan Brothers Outstanding Military Family award, he thought his clan might be a contender. In fact, so many Marvets had recently served, he needed help just to gather all the names. He enlisted the aid of his nephew, Bill.

The five Sullivan Brothers served aboard the same cruiser and were all killed in action during World War II when that ship was sunk. They were from Iowa, as are the Marvets.

Bill began making the calls, hunting for every last Marvet who'd served since World War II, when Richard's older brothers - Virgil, Wayne and Barney - began the chain of service. Though between Richard and Bill, most names were known, often dates of service and branches of military required some digging.

“By the time I was done, it was a rather large group, which I didn’t know myself," Bill said. "I knew there were a lot of them, but I didn’t know there were that many.”

In fact, there were so many names Bill had to change the application to add names just three days before the awards banquet. At least 22 members have served, in a continuous chain of more than 70 years of active duty with at least one Marvet serving and more than 150 years combined service. Richard is the only Marvet from the first generation of this chain.

"It’s just been right on down the line," Richard said.

"I was just speechless," Richard said, thinking back to receiving the award at a special banquet. "I really didn't know what to say when we were at that banquet. I thanked everybody but I just didn’t know what to say."

The family received the award at a special banquet in 2012.

"It was awesome, it brought me to tears," Bill said about winning the award. "It was really quite the honor to be even brought up in the same sentence as the Sullivan Brothers. It was just a humongous honor to get the award and really to see - we didn’t realize when we started this how big it was and what it all pertained to.

"That’s just the way the family is, we all believe in serving our country, and we carried that down for generations."

Bill and Richard said they suspected the chain of Marvets' active duty service would continue into the future. They also agreed the shared military experience gives their family a special bond. Bill mentioned for one of the younger generation who served in the Afghanistan and Iraq, 50 to 70 family members show up for a going away dinner to honor him before deployment. Richard said more than 150 family members attend the annual family reunion.

To read about another family that followed in the Sullivan brothers' tradition, click here:

To read about the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, click here:

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