The Grand Marshal: Playing Host

Ed Martin, in the home he and wife Sherry carefully decorated for the holiday.


He’s meticulous, as one might expect a retired admiral to be, even when his attention is directed toward something light and airy: Christmas. His wife, a collector of ornaments and Santa statues, handles the decor in their Guadalupe Avenue home, but he puts the lights on the tree.

For retired Vice Admiral Edward Martin, that’s an eight-hour job. Wires must be hidden, proper space must be left for the ornaments. Given that Sherry gathered them with care, they also must be placed with care.

It should not be surprising then that Martin is investing so much energy in his role as honorary chairman of the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, which includes serving as grand marshal of the Big Bay Balloon Parade the morning of Wednesday’s game.

He resists the spotlight being turned to him. He points to the city and the attention, visits and money the Dec. 28 game draws to San Diego and the region. There are the players from the University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears and University of Texas Longhorns who have the privilege of playing here. And there is the sponsor, which Martin believes unfairly gets pared from the picture. 

But the admiral was picked for a reason, and it wasn’t to stand in the background while everyone focuses on other aspects of the Holiday Bowl.

“I’m extremely proud,” he says of being honored. “There’s a lot of great American heroes in this community, far more than people realize, and Coronado’s got its share.”

The centennial celebration of Naval aviation is drawing to a close, and the Naval Academy graduate has been designated a Naval aviator for more than half that period, since 1955, making him an ideal choice for his Holiday Bowl duties. 

He flew in the Pacific and Atlantic fleets, but in 1967 was shot down over Vietnam, becoming a POW and losing six years of his life. Yet he returned and began a sharp rise through the Navy’s ranks.

He held numerous high-profile posts, including Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air Warfare), U.S. Commander, Eastern Atlantic and Deputy Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, before retiring 22 years ago.

As part of his air command, he oversaw the 75th anniversary of Naval aviation, which included a gala that attracted a startling collection of luminaries, from Bob Hope to Elizabeth Taylor. 

He’s been exposed to stars, marched in parades as a midshipman and for Mardi Gras in Cannes, but he’s never been a grand marshal before, nor played host for the variety of activities that kick off Saturday and lead up to the 5 p.m. game Wednesday.

What will he enjoy most? Cruising in the Harbor Drive parade with Sherry, his wife of nearly 54 years? The praise when he is introduced? Appearing on the Qualcomm Stadium field?

“All of it,” he says, ever the diplomat.


Martin is the last of Coronado Patch’s 12 People of Christmas, business people and celebrants whose work and hobbies give them a unique perspective on the holidays. Please see our Holiday Guide 2011 for their stories, including advice for how to make it through this busy time.