Marion Howell was born on November 5, 1935, in South Carolina. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on January 11, 1955, and served as an Air Rescue Specialist until leaving active duty and going into the Air Force Reserve on November 6, 1958, and was honorably discharged from the Air Force Reserve on November 6, 1962. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 25, 1963, and completed Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in April 1963, Radio Operator Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, in July 1963, Basic Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in August 1963, and Special Forces Communications Training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in June 1964. His first assignment was as a Radio Operator with Company E, 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa and deployed to South Vietnam from June 1964 to January 1966, and then as a Radio Operator with Company E, 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from January 1966 to May 1967. Sgt Howell served as a Radio Operator with the 5th Special Forces Group in South Vietnam from May 1967 to July 1969, and then as a Radio Operator Supervisor with Company A, 6th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from July 1969 to March 1971. During this time, Sgt Howell participated in the Son Tay Raid on November 21, 1970, a clandestine mission to rescue American Prisoners of War held in North Vietnam, where he served as the Radio Operator on the Redwine Security Group. His next assignment was as Supervisor of Communications with Company A, 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from March 1971 to April 1972, and then as Supervisor and then Chief of Communications with 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from April 1972 to July 1974. 1SG Howell served as 1st Sergeant of the 125th Signal Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, in Hawaii from July 1974 to September 1977, followed by service as Chief Signal NCO and 1st Sergeant of the Signal Company with 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from September 1977 to January 1980. He attended the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, from February to August 1980, and then served as a Senior Project NCO at Fort Gordon from August 1980 to February 1982. CSM Howell next served as a Command Sergeant Major at Fort Gordon from February 1982 to September 1983, followed by service as Command Sergeant Major of the 22nd Signal Brigade in West Germany from September 1983 to September 1986. His final assignment was as Command Sergeant Major at Headquarters U.S. Army Communication and Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, from September 1986 until his retirement from the Army on August 1, 1987. Marion Howell died on May 7, 2007.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in action on 21 November 1970 as a member of an all-volunteer joint U.S. Army and Air Force raiding force in the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed heliborne assault mission to rescue United States military personnel held as prisoners of war at Son Tay prison in North Vietnam. This valiant effort was motivated by a deep compassion for his imprisoned fellow men-at-arms and by a strong sense of military duty and national pride. Sergeant Howell, Senior Radio Operator for the ground force commander, landed in the objective with the command group of the raiding force. En route to his objective, he came under automatic weapons fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he fearlessly continued his mission of establishing his Command Post position. Still under fire, he operated the air-ground net flawlessly, even though the traffic was greatly intensified by major changes in the plan. When the Command Post was threatened by enemy soldiers, he returned fire without loss of efficiency in his communications duties. His complete disregard for his personal safety and his flawless execution of duty under fire reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.