Publication: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Date: May 15, 2015; Section: Front Section; Page: 1
Hope GI killed in ’68 laid to rest
SARAH D. WIRE ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
WASHINGTON — Staccato raps on a snare drum led the procession that took Army Master Sgt. James “Jim” Holt to his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, 47 years after he disappeared during battle in Vietnam.
The Hope native’s remains were identified in December. Hundreds gathered in February for a memorial held by the Texarkana chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association.
On Thursday, a few dozen mourners, including Holt’s widow and daughters and his brother George Holt, 76, followed the six white horses that pulled Holt’s flag-draped coffin on a black artillery caisson to his grave site. Holt was buried in Arlington Cemetery’s Section 57, which recently opened and lies in the shadow of the Pentagon.
After members of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as The Old Guard, carried the coffin to the grave site, an Army chaplain spoke and seven soldiers fired three rifle volleys. The mourners stood as a bugler played taps just over the crest of a hill.
The chaplain, Capt. John Scott, told those gathered about Holt’s “life marked with service and sacrifice.”
“He laid down his life so that others may live,” Scott said gesturing to the flagdraped coffin. “In life he honored the flag, now the flag will honor him.”
Holt, the youngest of seven siblings, joined the Army soon after graduating from Hope High School. Twenty-six when he was presumed to have been killed, he had trained for years to become a medic in the special forces before being deployed to Vietnam.
“He always wanted to be a medic, be a doctor, and we were not financially able to let him go to college, so that’s when he joined the service,” George Holt said after the funeral. “He loved the service.”
Jim Holt was assigned to Company C, 5th Special Forces Group, when his unit was attacked near its camp in the northwest corner of South Vietnam near the Laotian border, according to the Defense Department. It was called the Battle of Lang Vei.
After taking the first wave of injured soldiers away from the battle, Jim Holt saw enemy tanks approaching and ran back to help. Manning a 106-mm recoilless rifle in a mortar pit near camp, he destroyed tanks until he ran out of ammunition.
“He was doing what you’re trained to do. First thing, you take care of the wounded and then, after the wounded, you try to destroy the enemy,” George Holt said.
Four men who served with Jim Holt in Lang Vei were among Thursday’s mourners, including the man who was loading ammunition into Jim Holt’s weapon as he destroyed the Viet Cong tanks in a battle, his brother said. That soldier was captured during the battle and spent five years in a prisoner of war camp, George Holt said.
“They ran out of ammunition and he went to a bunker, and Jim was last seen running back to an ammunition dump to get more ammunition,” Holt said.
Jim Holt was declared missing in action Feb. 7, 1968. He was one of 10 Americans killed, captured or declared missing during the battle, according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial website.
Using his siblings’ DNA, scientists at the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii identified Jim Holt’s remains in December. He was officially designated as accounted for on Jan. 10.
George Holt spent decades looking for his little brother.
“I was notified the 15th day of December of last year that they had identified his remains through DNA testing,” he said. “I got to go to Hawaii and bring his remains back.”
In Atlanta where he changed planes, soldiers were there to escort and salute Jim Holt’s remains, George Holt said. The Delta Airlines flight attendants also honored the soldier.
“They go out of their way. They announced it on the intercom that my brother had been found and I was bringing his remains back Arlington,” he said.
When the flight arrived in Washington, D.C., he was greeted by an honor guard and the sound of bagpipes, Holt said.
“The military pretty much goes all out when they find somebody to bring back,” he said.
According to the Defense Department, there are 1,627 American service members still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Since April 2012, the remains of 35 service members missing since Vietnam have been identified.
The U.S. Army Band played “America the Beautiful” on Thursday as The Old Guard folded the flag from Holt’s coffin. U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Lewis presented the flag to Holt’s widow, Linda Winslow. He paused to touch two previously folded flags to the coffin before presenting them to Holt’s daughters, Rebecca Holt and Jennifer Holt. Both women held red roses.
After Jim Holt was presumed dead, his wife remarried and she and their daughters moved to Florida.
George Holt said one of his nieces gave him the flag presented to her. He said he plans to give it to his youngest son, James, who was named for Jim Holt shortly after his disappearance.
Officials initially reported Holt as missing in action. A military review board amended his status to presumed killed in action seven years later.
“We’ve finally got closure,” George Holt said. “At least we’ve got him back on American soil.”
Jim Holt received more than a dozen awards, including the Purple Heart and the Silver Star Medal, and he was promoted from sergeant first class to master sergeant while missing in action. In 2013, he was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame.
Arkansas’ U.S. Sen. John Boozman was present when Holt was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Members of his staff attended the funeral Thursday, when the Rogers Republican was called away for votes.
“It’s so important that the family finally gets closure on such a difficult situation,” Boozman said by phone later. “We’re just grateful that he’s back in the United States where he belongs.”
Boozman said he was struck by how Holt rescued the wounded and then held off the enemy so his comrades could survive.
“He’s a guy that was a medic serving others, and then all of a sudden as they started to overrun the battlefield, he turned and helped out regarding defending, and he played a key role in saving others in a very different way,” Boozman said. “He’s a great example of an ordinary guy that rose to the occasion to do extraordinary things.”