TSgt. Melvin Holland
DOB: 6 January 1936
Hometown of Record: Toledo, Wa.
Mel was born in Vader, Wa. and grew-up in Toledo, Wa. He married Ann Orr, on 29 December 1956, in Oakland, CA. They have five children; Debbie (1957), Carolyn (1958), Richard (1959), Doreen (1961), and John (1964).
Ann Holland comments on this article: "Some fathers do come home. Note the date of March 11, 1991"
WELCOME HOME AMERICAN
Written by John after the Welcome Home ceremony for Col. Eberly and other
Returned POW pilots captured during Operation Desert Storm.
Col. Eberly is stationed at Seymour-Johnson AFB where John is stationed.
You traveled that long lonesome road
The one so few will ever know
You are back amongst your family and friends
Knowing your journey has reached the end
As I stood in the crowd to welcome you home
In the midst of the ceremony, I stood alone
I had mixed emotions during that joyous day
It was over-shadowed by a cloud of gray
My heart was hurting down to my soul
A jealous feeling I strongly hold
I still wait for that special occasion
When my Daddy comes home to our patriotism
He is still held in a far away land
The day yours ended, 1968 is when his all began
A proud American who had given his all
I will always treasure his name on The Wall
I welcome you home with open arms of joy
Cherishing the memories, when I was a boy
I too serve our Country, just like you
God Bless ole Glory; Red, White, and Blue.
SSgt John D. Holland
Son of: TSgt Melvin A. Holland
M.I.A. 11 Mar 68, Site 85 Laos
Ann Holland comment: "John wore Col Eberly's bracelet until he came home. John and Col Eberly were guest speakers at POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies the September before he was shot down. Col Eberly now reads this poem at every speaking engagement to remind people that not everyone came home from Vietnam."
Who was Mel Holland?
Written by Ann Holland,
Melvin Arnold Holland was born on January 6, 1936, in Vader, Washington, the tenth of eleven children born to Anie Myrtle and Henry Grimshaw Holland. He came later in their lives when Anie was 41 and Henry 51 years old. A baby boy that was born two and a half years later lived only seven months so Mel was the “baby” of the family with five sisters still living at home who were six to seventeen years old. Two older brothers and two older sisters, 19-25 years of age had left the home by then and some also had children of their own so Mel was an uncle to children several years older than himself. Even though there were 6-1/2 years between Mel and his sister, Betty, there were always many children of all ages in and out of the house as he was growing up. But for the girls, Mel was their baby. He was showered with love and attention; spoiled by everyone. The love that was given to Mel as a child was returned to his own family tenfold as a young man He learned at a very early age he could get anything he wanted by “sweet-talking” his sisters, (it worked on his wife too). He was such a happy, loving little boy that no one could tell him “no”. (Neither could his wife).
His father was a hard-working logger in the Pacific Northwest, but with that many children in the family, times were tough for some of the older children as they were growing up. By the time Mel got to his teens, he was the only one still at home and his parents loved being able to give him nearly everything he needed or wanted, that they could afford. There was always a garden planted in the backyard and as a little guy, when Mel would disappear, quite often he could be found sitting in the onion patch helping his self to a “snack” of little green onions and some of Mom’s fresh bread.
Mel could never remember being spanked by his father, but occasionally he could provoke his mother into giving him a swat on the backside, which only made him laugh.
When Mel got into Junior High, he started playing sports and grew to love baseball and basketball. By the time he got to High School, he was quite good at both and Toledo being a small school, a boy did not have to be six feet tall to make the team. What Mel lacked in height, he made up in spirit. Live was so much fun for Mel, he didn’t take his school work very serious and in his Junior year, his grades did not quite meet the requirements to play sports and was told he couldn’t play basketball. For a young man used to being able to talk his way through life, it was quite a blow to find out rules are rules, and they wouldn’t be bent for him. So, he quit school and went to California to live with his sister, Dot, and her husband, Doug. He thought he would be able to get a job, but in 1953 with the Korean War winding down and a lot of veterans coming home, a 17 year old drop-out didn’t have a lot to offer a prospective employer.
It was during that four months in California that he met a young 13 year old girl named Ann. Ann’s sister lived next door to Dot and Doug and they were best of friends. Ann and Mel became friends and spent many hours playing cards, while they were babysitting for their sisters. Ann was on her Junior High girls basketball team and Mel found out he had a little competition in a game of “one-on-one”, because Ann also made up in spirit what she lacked in size. It was a lot of fun for both and a friendship was formed that was not forgotten. A few months later, Mel went home to Toledo, to go back to school and a part-time job.
In January, 1954, shortly after turning 18 years old, Mel and his best friend, Ray, decided to join the Air Force. Mel found his niche in life. He loved being in the Air Force. He loved learning to be a ground radio repairman. He loved the traveling and the friends that he made. After going to training and technical schools, he was sent to Korea for a year. He even thought that was fun. Being a young man in a foreign country for the first time, he learned very quickly how to make friends when he came back to the USA. His next duty station was at Hamilton AFB, in California.
Three years had passed since he had last seen or talked to Ann, but his sister was still in touch with Ann’s sister and on one of his first free weekends, he went looking for Ann. A lot had changed in Ann’s life in those three years. Her parents had died two years earlier and she had been moved from one home to the next and was living with an Aunt and Uncle just across the San Francisco Bay from Hamilton AFB. Mel surprised her one evening by showing up at her after school job, just as she was getting off work. He brought a ray of sunshine into her life.
Mel spent the next year crossing the water, either by bridge or ferry boat, building his friendship with Ann. When his mother died in May, he back from Washington with an engagement ring for her and eventually convinced her he would make a good husband. They were married December 29th, 1956, in Oakland, California. Mel was an Airman Second Class, had a 1953 Buick Hardtop Coupe, (not paid for), and was making about $200.00 a month. He thought that was really living.
He and Ann rented a little three-room house, out in the country, not far from the base, and Mel got a part-time job working at a gas station for a little extra money. The young couple had a lot of fun doing things with friends, visiting their sisters, going to wrestling matches and stock car races, and it wasn’t long until the first little Holland was on the way. When Mel was offered a job as assistant manager at the Service Station, he decided to take it as his four years with the Air Force was up. Within a couple of months, he found out the military life was a little better than the civilian life, so he re-enlisted and the Holland family moved to Fairchild AFB, in Spokane, Washington. Five months later, there transferred to Oklahoma and Mel became part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and a Radar Bomb Scoring Squadron (RBS).
His assignment was at a small radar base and Mel and Ann became fast friends with many of the families there. One year and another baby later, the Holland’s were off to Spain, on a three year assignment at an Aircraft Control and Warning (ACW) site, in the hills of Constantine. The Holland family kept growing, the babies learned to speak Spanish, as well as English, (Mel said he had to learn to speak Spanish so he could talk to his kids), and the good times continued. It didn’t take a lot of money to be happy.
Mel really enjoyed his family. He loved his little boy and three little girls, and the best times for him were spent doing things with his family and giving them the same kind of live and attention that was showered on him as a child. Ann was his best friend and he was her best friend and they still enjoyed playing cards together or with friends. They also played board games, joined softball teams, and bowling teams, built model airplanes, went sight-seeing, enjoyed bullfighting or camping on the Spanish coast. Six weeks before the end of the tour, Mel’s father died and he had to leave it to Ann to get the car, the furniture and the family back to the USA.
Ann managed to get the car shipped, the furniture picked up, and her and the children on the plane to America. That was the day the “Columbus Day Storm” hit the Pacific Northwest and Mel was stuck on the ground with all the telephone lines down for three days. Even though no prior “what if” arrangements had been made, when Mel wasn’t at McGuire AFB to meet Ann, she contacted the American Red Cross to let them know she was going to Guest Housing on base, and for them to try and get through to Mel’s sister, to find out where he was. Three days later, when Mel got to McGuire AFB and no idea where to look for Ann and the kids, he called the Red Cross and they told him where he could find his family. Their car hadn’t arrived yet, so they found a rooming house to stay in where their little children saw a television set for the first time.
A week later, with their money running out, they took a bus to Massachusetts to stay with some Air Force friends, while waiting for their car. It was another week before they got the call that the car was in Brooklyn. Their friend, Mike, came home that night and said all leaves had been cancelled because of the Cuban Crisis. Mel told Mike he didn’t hear him...he was going to Brooklyn to get the car. So, while Mel was on the bus to Brooklyn, Ann and Kathy sat glued to the TV set, waiting to see if World War III was starting. As soon as Mel pulled into the driveway, the family loaded up, hugged their friends good-bye, and headed for Mississippi. Next assignment was 7-level school, Keesler AFB.
It had been just a month earlier that James Meredith integrated “Ol’ Miss” and the National Guard had been called in, so it was with a lot of trepidation that the Hollands drove through the state, on their way to Biloxi. They made it through the state fine, but the dark cloud that had been dogging them was still there, because their car broke down just as they pulled in to their friends driveway. (Military families have friends everywhere they go). It took a few days to get the car fixed and borrow money from the Red Cross, because Mel’s pay records were lost, then they went out and found a house to rent. Their furniture hadn’t arrived yet, so they borrowed cots and kitchen things from Special Services and moved in. The furniture stayed “lost” for three months. With the fifth little Holland on the way, Mel in school all day and studying all night, Ann wasn’t in the best of humor. Mel was going in to check on the furniture nearly every day, and finally after three months they told him it couldn’t be found, he would have to file a claim for it. He told them he had four little kids and a pregnant wife that had been living in a bare house with cots to sleep on for three months, and unless he could prove to him the boat sunk in the middle of the ocean, he’d better find that furniture or he was bringing the pregnant wife in and he could tell her she would have to file a claim. They found the furniture the next day. It was a while before Mel and Ann could laugh about the bleak Thanksgiving and Christmas they’d had.
Mel studied very hard so he could be first in his class and have first choice of the base assignments. He wanted to get on the West coast again, so he could be near his sisters and have them get to know his family. He made No. 1, but the farthest west was a base in the panhandle of Texas, so he chose the closest to Biloxi, which was an RBS site, in Ellisville, 60 miles north. The day Mel took his final test was the day Holland boy #2 decided to make his grand entrance into the world. Mel and Ann were old pros at the baby business by the time little John came along, so he lost only a couple hours of sleep before he had to go take his final exams. He passed with flying colors and it was time to get on with doing his job for the Air Force.
It was off to Ellisville and finding out what kind of an assignment an RBS site had turned into, since Mel left Oklahoma five years earlier. (Years later, Ann thought it was her “on-the-job” training for what was to come). Mel started going TDY a lot, and for a man whose family meant everything to him, it was really hard for him to say good-bye to the little guys all the time. When he was home, he tried to make every minute count. He wold get down on the floor and play with the kids until they’d all be exhausted. They loved it. He had his own little league baseball team and it would be the boys against the girls. On really hot, muggy days, you could even find him in the middle of the 8’ x 15” pool the kids had with them, all over him in the water, learning to “swim”.
In early 1966, Mel received his first TDY to Vietnam. He and the site Commander were the first ones from the site to go over there, so it was a new experience for their circle of friends. The war was just heating up then, but Mel was going over to help set-up the first SAC radar sites in Vietnam, and they were supposed to be in secure areas, so neither he nor Ann were very concerned about it. It was the six month separation that neither was looking forward too...all the other TDY’s had been two months or less. The six months passed quickly because they were both very busy and the reward was one whole year of no TDY’s.
The summer of 1967, the Hollands took a vacation. They spent two weeks traveling, took the children to “Six Flags Over Texas” in Dallas/Ft. Worth; saw where President Kennedy had been killed three years earlier, and traveled to Houston, where Mel took two of the children to his first Major League baseball game, at the Houston Astrodome. It was to be the last time the Holland family would spend having fun together.
When Mel returned to work, he was sent TDY, and when he had been gone only a few weeks, he came home unexpectedly one night and left the next day for a briefing at Squadron Headquarters, at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. Three days later he came home and told Ann her and the children would be moving back to Washington State. What he didn’t tell her was that he had been selected to volunteer for a Top-Secret assignment that would help bring the war to an early end. It did....for him. For Ann, it was just the beginning.